San Francisco Circumcision Ban (November 2011)
|Not on Ballot|
| This measure did not or |
will not appear on a ballot
Under the terms of the proposed ban:
- It would have been "unlawful to circumcise, excise, cut, or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years."
- Violators could have been charged with misdemeanor. If found guilty, they could have faced a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- An exception was made for circumcisions that are "necessary to the physical health of the person on whom it is performed because of a clear, compelling, and immediate medical need with no less-destructive alternative treatment available."
Supporters of the concept at one time were also collecting signatures to qualify a similar measure for the November 2012 ballot in Santa Monica.
Both measures were drafted by Matthew Hess, a San Diego-based anti-circumcision activist who says, "This is the furthest we’ve gotten, and it is a huge step for us...This is a conversation we are long overdue to have in this country. The end goal for us is making cutting boys’ foreskin a federal crime."
Marc Stern, who is an opponent of the ban and the associate general counsel for the American Jewish Committee, says, "People are shocked that it has reached this level because there has never been this kind of a direct assault on a Jewish practice here...This is something that American Jews have always taken for granted — that something that was so contested elsewhere but here, we’re safe and we’re secure."
On October 2, 2011 Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that prevents local governments from banning circumcision. The bill was in response to efforts in San Francisco and Santa Monica to outlaw the practice for males under 18 years old.
Lloyd Schofield, a retired hotel credit manager, was the primary organizer behind the initiated city ordinance. Initiative supporters have a website, the "San Francisco MGM Bill" website, where they say, "Your support will help us to protect ALL infants and children in San Francisco from the pain and harm caused by forced genital cutting. Damage ranges from excruciating pain, nerve destruction, loss of normal, natural and functional tissue, infection, disfigurement and sometimes death." "MGM," as used in the title of the initiative, is an acronym for "Male Genital Mutilation."
Supporters of the measure included Jonathon Conte, who helped collect signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. Conte, who was circumcised as an infant, said, "We have a lot of people in the city who believe boys deserve the same protection as girls. I discovered my sexuality and body had been impacted by this -- for no reason and without my consent or my input. To cut any body part off somebody who can't consent to me is just madness. You wouldn't cut off an ear or a finger or a nose."
Groups that spoke out against the proposal included:
- The Jewish Community Relations Council. Abby Michaelson-Porth, associate director of this organization, said, "There will be an organized campaign against it."
- The Anti-Defamation League. Nancy Appel of the San Francisco regional office of the ADL said her group is considering what it will do if sponsors of the proposal do gather sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot. She indicated that one option is filing a lawsuit to keep the measure off the ballot on constitutional grounds as an infringement on the First Amendment rights of those in religious communities in the city who practice male infant circumcision as a religious convenant.
- Rabbi Gil Yosef Leeds, a certified mohel, said, "For a city that's renowned for being progressive and open-minded, to even have to consider such an intolerant proposition ... it sets a dangerous precedent for all cities and states."
- Dr. Laurence Baskin, who is the chief of pediatric urology at Benioff Children's Hospital, referred to the measure as "a bunch of nonsense." He also said, "I'm not going to stop doing circumcisions, and this would never pass the First Amendment test. The people who are doing this should focus on our budget problems, lack of education — something that could really help society."
- See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2011
Michael Jacobs, the attorney who is representing the plaintiffs, said that the technical basis for the lawsuit is that the State of California prohibits local governments from restricting medical procedures.
On July 28, the lawsuit to remove the measure from the ballot was successful.
Path to the ballot
- To qualify for the November 8, 2011 ballot, supporters needed to collect about 7,168 valid signatures of registered city voters by April 26, 2011.
- On that date, supporters of the ban submitted 12,265 signatures.
- On May 18, city election officials said that their check of the signatures established that about 7,700 of the over 12,200 submitted signatures were valid, and that therefore, the measure had qualified for the November ballot.
- Religious Action Center on Reform Judaism, "Ruling to Remove Circumcision Ban from Ballot Welcomed," July 29, 2011
- Bay Citizen, "Circumcision Ban Headed for November Ballot, According to Supporters," February 18, 2011
- Money Watch, "Circumcision ban to appear on San Francisco ballot," May 19, 2011
- New York Times, "Efforts to Ban Circumcision Gain Traction in California," June 4, 2011
- The New York Times, "California: Governor Signs Law to Protect Circumcision," October 3, 2011
- "San Francisco MGM bill" website
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Circumcision ban a step closer to the ballot," April 26, 2011
- Los Angeles Times, "Opponents of proposed circumcision ban file lawsuit to block November initiative," June 22, 2011