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Circumcision Ban Headed for November Ballot, According to Supporters

Protesters condemn circumcision at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade June 29, 2008
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Protesters condemn circumcision at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade June 29, 2008
 
A campaign to make the religious ritual illegal is gathering signatures for a ballot initiative

A proposed circumcision ban is likely headed for San Francisco's ballot in November.

"We are on track to submit the required number of signatures," Lloyd Schofield, the retired hotel credit manager behind the initiative, told The Bay Citizen.

Supporters have until April 26 to gather 7,200 valid signatures. Schofield said he aims to surpass that figure before the deadline.

The measure would make it "unlawful to circumcise, excise, cut, or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years." 

Violators of the ordinance would be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and, if convicted, could face a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Schofield refused to reveal how many valid signatures had been gathered to date and the The Bay Citizen has not viewed copies of the signed the petitions. But Schofield said 10 to 15 volunteers have hit the streets regularly gathering signatures. The campaign is also using paid signature gatherers, he said.

At the Anti-Defamation League's regional office in San Francisco, Nancy Appel was reluctant to take Schofield's statements at face value. "He can say whatever he wants but we have no idea if this will end up on the ballot and we won't know until after the end of April," she said.

Appel said the ADL is studying its options, including filing a legal petition to keep the measure off the ballot on constitutional grounds even if it garners the required number of signatures.

Jews and Muslims alike circumcise their male children as a way to declare their faith and declare their covenant with God. Most legal scholars believe the right to circumcise is protected by the 1st Ammendment. 

Jewish groups promised a fight should the measure land on on the ballot.

"There will be an organized campaign against it," said Abby Michaelson-Porth, associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

Michaelson-Porth said the Jewish community would launch a coordinated opposition campaign in coalition with other ethnic, faith and medical groups. 

"It's disappointing... that in this era when there are significant and real problems in San Francisco that requires real resources that we are spending our time fighting this wrongheaded and discriminatory initiative," she said.

Parents who oppose circumcision have a simple course of action they can take, she said -- they can not circumcise their sons.

Schofield said his side would respond with a "respectful, informative campaign" that "addresses the issue from all different angles."

"This subject of forced male mutilation has gotten worldwide attention and a lot of people are past the joking part of it," he said.

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