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Lawsuit filed to take circumcision ban off San Francisco ballot

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) – Opponents of a proposition to ban circumcision in San Francisco are suing to have the measure removed from the November ballot.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in California Superior Court by plaintiffs including the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Anti-Defamation League, several physicians, and Jewish and Muslim families.

Although public opposition to the ballot measure has centered on religious freedom and the health benefits of circumcision, the lawsuit is more narrowly focused on the fact that medical procedures in California are regulated by the state, not by local municipalities.

Cal. Bus & Prof. Code 460(b) denies any California city the power to restrict a state-licensed healing professional from performing any procedure that falls within the recognized scope of that profession. Thus, the lawsuit states, a ban on circumcision, which is a medical procedure under state protection, cannot legally be enacted by a city. Placing such a ban on a city ballot is invalid and a waste of money, the suit claims.

The ballot measure would make it a misdemeanor to circumcise any male under the age of 18 within city limits. Violators would face a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. It was placed on the November ballot in May by a coalition of anti-circumcision groups.

A similar ballot proposal in Santa Monica, Calif., was withdrawn by its supporters following the outcry generated by the San Francisco ballot measure, which some opponents claim is motivated by anti-Semitism.

Both Jews and Muslims circumcise their boys as part of their faith.

Physicians have come out in opposition to the measure, saying it would prevent them from performing their job in the way they see fit.

“This measure would put me and hundreds of other doctors in jail for performing a procedure with known health benefit and global health implications,” said Dr. Brian McBeth, a litigant in the case who works in the department of emergency medicine at San Francisco General Hospital.

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