Circumcision Ban: Lawsuit Would Nip SF Law in the Bud

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on June 27, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

San Francisco's impending vote on circumcision may be short-lived now that a group of Jews and Muslims have asked a San Francisco Superior Court judge to weigh in on the issue.

Though the circumcision ban lawsuit ultimately seeks to kick the initiative off the city's November ballot on the grounds that state law prohibits cities from interfering in such matters, there are some pretty good Constitutional arguments, too.

Primarily a sacred religious rite in both Judaism and Islam, many in the medical community believe that circumcision is a beneficial procedure, reducing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Based on these facts, the circumcision ban calls into question both a person's religious and privacy rights.

First, the bill at the heart of the circumcision ban lawsuit does not provide for any religious exemptions, meaning that it bars Jews and Muslims from engaging in an essential religious practice.

And second, it blatantly infringes on a parent's right to make medical decisions for their child, which is protected by the Due Process Clause.

Advocates of the ban would obviously disagree, arguing that the ban overcomes Constitutional protection because circumcision is akin to genital mutilation, depriving men both the right to make such a decision for themselves and access to enhanced sensation.

Even if true, their cause may be a lost one. That is, unless they're willing to go big.

The primary contention of the circumcision ban lawsuit is that California law prohibits cities from restricting medical procedures. If ultimately true, the only (and unlikely) way to get this passed is to take it to the state legislature.

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