A brief note about Rabbi Roth.
The decision of the Conservative movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards to approve three separate teshuvot with regard to homosexuality will satisfy no one completely. This baffles the extremists, who believe that no one should be satisfied at all. (For isn't the point of halachah an iron-bound maximalism?)
I wish Rabbi Roth weren't resigning from the Committee; I'm guessing this means that he will choose to no longer be affiliated with the movement. He is a towering scholar of unparalleled erudition. Perhaps though this a fitting moment to remind ourselves of two recent statements of Rabbi Roth's (made here):
I urge halakhically committed gay Jews not to reject the possibility that the severity of the halakhic demand of celibacy might be somewhat or significantly mitigated by some modes of therapy and treatment. Since the halakhic prohibition stands irrespective of whether there is treatment possible or not, there is little to be lost in giving a chance to treatment for which claims of marked success are made and attested.As I mentioned before, the fact that Rabbi Roth believes such "attested" claims of "marked success" in the mitigation of homosexual behavior speaks more to his biases and unintentional ignorance than to any intellectual failing. More important however is his following claim:
. . . an inability to legitimate homosexuality halakhically makes no negative claim whatsoever about the humanity, sanctity, worth, and dignity of homosexuals.The fact that Rabbi Roth sees no difficulty with this claim (or, at least, no necessity to defend it properly) casts light on a sharp disconnect between halachic strict constructivism and halachic compassion. (Note that this sentence itself makes no distinction between homosexual behavior and homosexuals themselves, a difference which Rabbi Roth dwells upon at length elsewhere.)
Update: A JTS source writes us.
Rabbis Roth and Rabinowitz left for different reasons. in Rabinowitz's case he believes there is not much point to the CJLS. Any rabbi can write a teshuvah and publish it on the web and any other rabbi can either follow that p'sak or not. Rabbi Roth left to make a point that "decisions have consequences". He thought the Dorff Nevins Reiser teshuvah was clearly a case of poskim considering an issue with a predetermined answer in mind. He sees nothing wrong with being predisposed to a certain answer as in the case with deciding someone is not a mamzer or not an agunah, but he says even then if the case is clear there is nothing to do. In his mind this a case where the answer was clear the other way. In particular he said the decision rested on three pillars--all of which would have to hold--and all of which are "tenuous at best". In particular he thought they made way too much out of an apparent makhlokhet between Rambam and Ramban about whether "everything else" is d'rabbanan. He said almost every rabbi since has said that Ramban simply misunderstood Rambam and thought Rambam was saying innocent touching was prohibited d'oraita. [I wish I could find a copy of Roth's teshuvah to better understand these arguments]. Roth also thought the principle of k'vod habrit was with only a few excpetions used for person X to violate a prohibition for the sake of person Y, and even when that was not the case it was always a social situation whereas private bedroom behavior was not a social situation.
Roth was asked how this decision was any worse than the driving teshuvah--and he served on the committee after that. Roth responded that he was a kid when the driving teshuvah came out. That this decision was not worse, but rather on par with the driving teshuvah and that he served on the committee to try to prevent anything like that from happening again, which it did. He notes that both the authors of the homosexuality teshuvah and the driving teshuvah had pure intentions, but were irresponsible. Roth said he will continue to pasken if asked his opinion on an issue. He also noted that many people asked him to reconsider his decision so he is doing that--reconsidering. He has not made any decisions yet about returning to the CJLS. Once again though it sounds clear that the resignation was solely from the CJLS and Roth does not seem to have any intention of leaving either JTS or the movement.