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California governor signs bill prohibiting circumcision bans

California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] on Sunday announced that he has signed into law [press release] a bill that will prevent local governments from banning male circumcision. The legislation, AB 768 [text, PDF], "preclude[s] a city, county, or city and county ordinance, regulation, or administrative action from prohibiting or restricting the practice of male circumcision, or the exercise of a parent's authority to have a child circumcised." It also provides that laws "affecting male circumcision must have uniform application throughout the state." Supporters of outlawing male circumcision have pressed forward elsewhere in the US. MGMBill.org [advocacy website] is devoted to submitting legislation to ban the practice and currently has bills pending in the federal government as well as 46 states.

The law was written in response to a ballot measure proposed in San Francisco, the Male Genital Mutilation bill [text]. The proposed measure would have made male circumcision illegal in San Francisco if the recipient is under the age of 18, with perpetrators penalized by a fine of $1,000 or imprisonment. In July, a judge for the Superior Court of San Francisco [official website] ruled in Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco v. Arntz [materials] that the public referendum to ban circumcision could not appear on the ballot [JURIST report]. Male circumcision is a religious practice in both Judaism and Islam, so there was an immediate protest to the initiative. Advocates for ending male circumcision believe it is a painful and archaic procedure that nets no benefits to the circumcised male. They frequently compare the practice to female genital mutilation, which is illegal under Title 18 [text] of the US Code.

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