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San Francisco judge removes circumcision ban from ballot

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

By Madison Park, CNN

(CNN) – San Francisco residents will not be voting on whether male circumcisions should be banned in the city this fall.

A Superior Court judge ordered Thursday that the proposed measure, which had initially made it onto the November 8 city ballot, be removed entirely.

The measure proposed banning male circumcisions with the penalty of jail time or a $1,000 fine. It would not have granted religious exemptions.

From the beginning, the controversial ballot measure faced strong resistance from medical, religious and civil liberties groups.

Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi wrote that male circumcision is “a widely practiced medical procedure” and that medical services are left to the regulation of the state, not individual cities.

The judge’s ruling was hailed by the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Anti-Defamation League and others who had sued to remove the measure from the ballot.

“While we are confident that the overwhelming majority of San Franciscans would have voted to defeat this extreme measure and are grateful for the outpouring of support from every sector of the community, we believe the right decision was made in the right venue,” said Abby Michelson Porth, associate director of Jewish Community Relations Council.

The plaintiff’s efforts were also supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and San Francisco’s Medical Society. And even the San Francisco City Attorney’s office expressed concerns about whether the measure was constitutional.

“It’s unusual for a judge to order an initiative off the ballot, but the proposed circumcision ban presented that rare case where the court should block an election on an initiative,” said ACLU Northern California staff attorney Margaret Crosby in a released statement. “Not only is the ban patently illegal, it also threatened family privacy and religious freedom. The court’s order protects fundamental constitutional values in San Francisco.”

Anti-circumcision advocates who had gathered more than 7,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot expressed disappointment and said they would appeal.

“To remove an initiative before it comes on ballot is an extraordinarily irregular thing to do,” said Lloyd Schofield, who is part of a Bay Area advocacy group that says the surgery violates human rights and likens it to “male genital mutilation.”

“To go to this length to have it struck from the ballot is undemocratic,” he said. “It’s very, very unfortunate.”

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