Circumcision Ban Ordered Off California Ballot by Judge in San Francisco

A measure to ban circumcision in San Francisco must be removed from the November ballot because it would regulate a medical procedure, a California judge ruled.

Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi in San Francisco today made final yesterday’s tentative ruling, saying it would serve no legitimate purpose to allow an invalid measure to remain on the ballot. Giorgi said the measure is prohibited by California’s Business and Professions Code.

Even if it targeted only circumcision performed for religious reasons, it would still be invalid because it would violate the constitutional right to free exercise of religion, Giorgi said.

“I did go ahead and look at that analysis,” Giorgi said at a packed hearing.

Lloyd Schofield, a San Francisco resident who led efforts to get the measure on the ballot, said after the hearing that he was considering an appeal.

Michael Kinane, Schofield’s attorney, told the judge that the measure was modeled after a U.S. law that limits female circumcision to instances of medical necessity.

“In the City and County of San Francisco, one of the places in the world that protects human rights more than anywhere in the world, we have reasonable health and safety right to protect our little babies from circumcision,” he said.

“It’s not cultural. It’s not religious,” Kinane said. California has no laws that are “sufficient to justify the mutilation of little infants,” he said.

Jewish Group’s Lawyer

Michael Jacobs, an attorney for the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, which sued to remove the measure, said in court that the evidence showed the proposed ban was prohibited.

“The evidence presented is overwhelmingly persuasive that circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure,” the judge said. State law “speaks directly to the issue of local regulation of medical procedures and leaves no room for localities to regulate in this area,” Giorgi said yesterday in her tentative ruling.

Matthew Hess, president of MGMbill.org, an organization supporting the measure and a federal bill to end what it calls male genital mutilation, said in an e-mail that the group will appeal the ruling and is “working on our legal strategy now.”

Giorgi ordered the city’s election department to remove the measure from the ballot.

The case is Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco v. Arntz, CPF-11-511370, California Superior Court, San Francisco County (San Francisco).

To contact the reporters on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net; Karen Gullo in San Francisco federal court at kgullo@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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