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Proposed Ban Cut Off Ballot
In a July 5, 2011 post, I discussed a ballot initiative proposed to prohibit and criminalize circumcision. See http://www.judaismandscience.com/on-leaving-more-than-your-heart-in-san-francisco/ The measure was scheduled for voting in San Francisco in November, 2011. Last week, California Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi ordered that the city remove the measure from the November ballot.
Judge Giorgi announced her tentative ruling last Wednesday, indicating that she would bar the proposed ban. After proponents of the initiative filed an opposition to her tentative ruling, the judge heard oral arguments and issued a final order on Thursday.
A lawyer for the ban proponents reportedly argued that the male circumcision was neither cultural nor religious. It was not even a medical procedure. Rather, he contended, it was mutilation and should be prohibited just like female circumcision is prohibited.
Judge Giorgi was not persuaded by such arguments. The debate, she said, was not about the merits of circumcision. Rather, it was about whether “the proposed city ballot measure is preempted by state law.”
Concluding that the evidence presented to her was “overwhelmingly persuasive that circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure,” she found in a narrowly tailored opinion that California state law expressly prohibits local regulation of medical procedures. Therefore, she ruled, “it serves no legitimate purpose to allow a measure whose invalidity can be determined as a matter of law to remain on the ballot after such a ruling has been made.”
Judge Giorgi did add that the proposed ban would also violate the Free Exercise of religion clause of the United States Constitution. But that comment, what lawyers call dicta, was not necessary to her ruling and, given the packed courtroom, may have been intended as additional comfort for the ban opponents and additional caution to the ban proponents.
Outside the courtroom, activists carried various signs which suggested a considerable lack of depth with respect to both medicine and the law. One asserted that “Circumcisers are child mutilating rapists,” apparently not understanding either anatomy, recent studies in pediatrics, criminal law or the English language. Another claimed “My Penis (sic) is NOT your property,” but there was no information provided that suggested that anyone other than the sign bearer wanted anything to do with any part of his body (capitalized or not), much less own and control it. Otherwise, the ban proponents vowed to consider their legal options.
While the good guys have won this round, only a momentary expression of satisfaction is warranted. The real lessons here are that (1) there cannot be enough education, including science, and (2) there cannot be enough coalition building.