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Judge Strikes Circumcision Ban

Friday, August 5th, 2011

San Francisco (JTA) – Jewish organizations welcomed a California state Superior Court judge’s ruling last week that an initiative banning circumcision for minors be struck from San Francisco’s November ballot.

In a final ruling on July 28, Judge Loretta Giorgi affirmed her tentative ruling from the previous day in which she agreed with the plaintiffs that the proposed ballot initiative is “expressly pre-empted” by state law because the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that “circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure.”

California law prohibits local governments from regulating medical procedures.

Michael Kinane, a lawyer for proponents of the circumcision ban, argued at the hearing that circumcision was not a medical procedure.

The initiative, if passed, would have made the practice of circumcision a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1000, or up to one year in jail, and offered no exemption for religious ritual.

“We appreciate Judge Giorgi’s careful review of the proposed measure, and her willingness to put a stop to this extreme, hurtful measure,” Abby Michelson Porth, the associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council — one of several plaintiffs in the suit — said.

“Today’s ruling is a win for religious liberty, a win for American values and a win for all San Franciscans,” said Howie Beigelman, the director of state affairs for the Orthodox Union.

Matthew Hess, the author of the bill, said that proponents of the measure were working out the details of an appeal. He strongly rejected the notion that circumcision was a medical procedure.

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