The Orthodox community has strict rules about homosexual behavior: Male homosexuality, colloquially known as mishgav zachor (literally, someone who lies with men), is explicitly forbidden in the Torah from Leviticus 18: “Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.” Lesbianism, while not explicitly forbidden, is equally frowned upon. From this narrow proscription of a sexual act, any behaviors or acts that could possibly be considered evidence of a homosexual lifestyle have also been widely condemned in Orthodox circles.
Writing in the 1970s, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the most important halachic decider of the century, wrote: “To speak of a desire for homosexual intimacy is a contradiction in terms. … The evil inclination entices the person to rebel against the will of the Holy One, Blessed Be He.” Some Orthodox rabbis continue to advocate “reparative therapy.” But even while other, more mainstream Orthodox attitudes have become far more compassionate, they still rarely get more accepting than a love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin approach.
“Halakhah sees heterosexual marriage as the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression,” stated a groundbreaking 2010 declaration signed by several Orthodox rabbis that advocated against reparative therapy—itself a relatively major shift in Orthodox thinking about homosexuality. “The sensitivity and understanding we properly express for human beings with other sexual orientations does not diminish our commitment to that principle.”