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Circumcision Initiative Moves Closer to Ballot

San Francisco measure would ban the practice, though it may be unconstitutional

Marc Tracy
April 28, 2011
At a bris.(pejrm/Flickr)

At a bris.(pejrm/Flickr)

Activists announced that they have received the requisite 7,168 signatures—in fact, they said they gathered over 12,000—to qualify a ballot initiative that would ban circumcision for the November elections. The next step is for the city’s Department of Elections to verify the signatures over the following month. The measure would make it a misdemeanor to circumcise a boy younger than 18, with the maximum penalty being a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

Last month, Michelle Goldberg covered San Francisco’s movement. “Circumcision contravenes some essential liberal values,” she noted. “It is evidence of a sexual double standard. It’s a painful and bloody rite whose purpose doesn’t lie in any immediate medical need. It marks a boy as a member of a group in a way that precedes his own decision-making, challenging the individualistic belief in a self-created identity.” She also observed, “there is something strange about the custom’s persistence, particularly among pork-eating, Sabbath-ignoring secular Jews.”

On the other hand, there are individual preferences and then there are legal obligations: “A complex debate about individual versus community rights hinges on that single primal cut,” Goldberg wrote. And indeed, Yediot Ahronot reports that even should voters approve the measure, its proponents would need to demonstrate that male circumcision causes medical harm—a high hurdle to leap—in order for it to pass constitutional muster.

SF May Vote on Circumcision Ban [Ynet]
Related: Foreplay [Tablet Magazine]

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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