(RNS) Jews, Muslims and their allies cheered Sunday (Oct. 2) as California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill prohibiting all local bans on circumcision, making it illegal for local authorities to restrict the medical or religious practice.
Anti-circumcision activists had gathered enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot in San Francisco. Voters would have been asked to decide if infant circumcision should be banned as an unnecessary genital mutilation, a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
A coalition of religious, medical and civil liberties groups sued to stop the proposal; a judge blocked the initiative in July, noting that only the state can regulate a widespread medical procedure. The new statewide law prevents further efforts to ban circumcision by cities or counties.
“Something could still happen at the state level, but it would be extremely unlikely,” said Abby Porth, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Community Relations Council. “It was already resolved, and now Gov. Brown signing this assembly bill puts this issue to rest.”
A similar anti-circumcision effort in Santa Monica collapsed earlier this year, as the campaign became associated with anti-Semitic propaganda.
The U.S. circumcision rate is falling, from 85 percent in 1965 for newborn boys in hospitals to 57 percent in 2008, according to the National Hospital Discharge Survey.
Jews and Muslims continue to circumcise boys for religious reasons, and other Americans opt for the procedure based on aesthetics, hygiene, or medical reasons. The American Academy of Pediatrics neither recommends nor discourages infant circumcision, however, citing “insufficient data.”