Circumcision ban likely to be cut from San Francisco's November ballot

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A November vote on a proposed San Francisco circumcision ban will be struck from the ballot this morning if a judge’s tentative Wednesday ruling remains the same.

In a preliminary decision, Judge Loretta M. Giorgi agreed with the Jewish Community Relations Council and other individuals suing The City’s Elections Department and San Francisco resident Lloyd Schofield by ruling that the proposed circumcision ban is “expressly pre-empted” by state law.

The judge said the law clearly prohibits local jurisdictions from attempting to regulate health care professionals.

Schofield gathered more than 12,000 signatures to get the circumcision ban placed on the ballot. If approved, it would have made anyone who performed the procedure on males under 18 guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Schofield has said he pursued the ban because he sees male circumcision as a brutal and nonconsensual practice by parents on their minor children.

His attorneys filed an official response to the ruling, which will be heard this morning in San Francisco Superior Court. In the decision released Wednesday, the judge rejected a rebuttal brief from a group called Doctors Opposing Circumcision because it was filed in an “extremely untimely” manner, two days before the ruling.

“I don’t know what the judge is thinking,” Schofield said. “We are just going to argue what we’ve been arguing all along, that men are no less human beings than women, and deserve protection from forced genital mutilation.”

Abby Porth, associate director at the Jewish Community Relations Council, said the movement against the ban was designed to combat misconceptions being spread about the practice, held in spiritual importance by the Jewish and Islamic faiths. Porth contends the ban’s campaign material included anti-Semitic comic books depicting Jewish mohels, or circumcision practitioners, as sinister villains.

“Even if it made the ballot, we don’t believe it would have passed,” Porth said.

According to the City Attorney’s Office, Schofield has the right to appeal the judge’s decision. But whether the measure ultimately makes it onto the ballot depends on what ruling is in place at the time of the Oct. 1 printing of voter pamphlets and ballots. The City Attorney’s Office itself has no plans to appeal on behalf of the Elections Department, given its rare pre-election opinion on the matter, which also called the ban campaign anti-Semitic.

In response to the nationally noticed debate, state legislation announced last week by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, would specifically bar local jurisdictions from regulating circumcision. U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, is proposing a similar measure in Congress.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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