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When I was a Modern Orthodox rabbi near Beverly Hills, young and very newlywed women often came to me for halachic, or Jewish legal, advice.A number would recount sexual difficulties, sometimes with the news that their husbands were homosexually inclined and that they went out to gay bars. Learning to be a heterosexual is a ridiculous proposition causing much harm to all.But many other LGBTQ Jews wish to, and do remain, observant.What do we do when LGBTQ Jews are frum, punctilious and even learned or learning?The halachic reason is that gay Jews are asked to meet a virtually impossible standard of behavior.If they violate that standard, they are either censured or thrown out of the Orthodox community.But that biblical commandment does not give us license to ignore or abuse the significant number of carefully observant Jews who are LGBTQ. The contemporary Orthodox approach to these individuals, with a few notable exceptions, has proven worthless or even dangerous.
But “just don’t do it” is not as simple as it sounds.During my rabbinic career, I thought I treated gay Jews in my congregation and yeshiva no differently than straight ones. I chose to ignore the fact that gay halachic Jews exist.My form of denial was hoping that maybe they would just go away — maybe to another congregation, or anywhere else.The classic case is the raped woman who must have “cried out but there was no one to save her” (Deuteronomy 22:6-7).Clearly, no hint of wrongdoing is to be ascribed to her; she is completely innocent.