Judge removes circumcision ban from ballot

July 28, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
San Francisco's November ballot just got shorter: A judge issued a final ruling on Thursday reiterating a tentative order that said the proposed ban on male circumcision will no longer be decided by voters.

The judge said she believes there is a legitimate debate on both sides of the controversy, but that was not the issue before her today, and her ruling means the voters won't weigh in either unless it's overturned on appeal.

Backers of the proposed ban call themselves 'intact-ivists," meaning they believe the genitals of baby boys should remain intact with no circumcisions performed until the age of 18. The argument against circumcision was made both inside and outside the courtroom on Thursday.

"In the city and county of San Francisco, one that protects human rights more than any in the world, we say we have a right to protect our babies," said Michael Kinane, the attorney for the circumcision opponents.

Kinane said female circumcision is outlawed in the United States and the same should apply to male circumcision, but Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi said this was not a discussion about pros and cons of circumcision, but about the law.

"This is an area pre-empted by state law," Giorgi said.

That law does not allow local governments to regulate medical procedures, and the judge said the option of trying to change the ballot language to target religious rather than medical circumcisions would violate the First Amendment.

"It's a strongly held belief that circumcision is an obligation upon all Muslims to perform for young boys," said attorney Nicole Aeschleman.

Muslim and Jewish organizations and individuals have sued to keep the proposition off the ballot.

The judge said she believes there is legitimage debate on both sides of the controversy, but that was not the issue before her today, and her ruling means it probably won't be before the voters in November either.

Lloyd Schofield is the man behind the proposed ballot measure. Schofield says his group is likely to appeal. The group collected more than 12,000 signatures from San Francisco residents.

Lawyers, however, say they weren't interested in Schofield's agenda.

"We don't want to see Mr. Schofield legislate away our religious tradition," said attorney Abby Porth.

The case would need to be heard and resolved quickly because the department of elections needs to send ballot paperwork to the printers within the first week in September.

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