About one week after a San Diego-based organization filed paperwork with Santa Monica’s City Clerk’s office to place a measure on the ballot banning male circumcisions, MGMBill.org appears to be retreating. According to various sources, Jena Troutman, a key advocate in favor of the male circumcision ban who filed the paperwork in Santa Monica, withdrew her proposed ballot measure on June 7. Later that day, a segment on KCRW’s Which Way, L.A? confirmed the news.
City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie said the proposed ballot measure, at least in its current form, indeed appears to be dead in the Santa Monica water, but the group is still moving forward with its campaign elsewhere.
“My understanding is that the measure is being withdrawn in Santa Monica but proceeding in San Francisco. I believe there will be a legal challenge there,” Moutrie said.
The proposed ballot measure would have banned circumcisions in the city for anyone under the age of 18. It also called for jail time and/or an imposition of $1,000 fine upon would-be violators.
A similarly proposed ban has already made it onto the November 2011 ballot in San Francisco.
Jonah Lowenfeld of the Jewish Journal appeared on KCRW’s Which Way, L.A.? program on June 7, speaking with host Warren Olney of the withdrawn proposal and the reasons why Troutman and MGMBill.org have packed up their bags in Santa Monica, at least for now.
“She didn’t want the conversation to be about religious freedom,” Lowenfeld told Olney on the June 7 radio broadcast, adding the proposed ballot measure “did not give any exceptions for religion” in applying the circumcision ban to local hospitals.
Delving deeper in the issue, Lowenfeld further discussed with Olney the future of a potential ban on circumcision in Santa Monica and whether such a proposal and eventual legislation could ever exist without political controversies looming in the background.
“I don’t know how much of a taste she has for a big political fight, and I think it really will be a big political fight,” Lowenfeld explained on Which Way, L.A.?
Even more, Lowenfeld said while Monday’s withdrawal did not necessarily mean the issue is dead in Santa Monica, the success of any proposal to ban male circumcisions would require several concessions and a significant balancing of interests.
“The question would be is if the proponents of these kinds of measures could separate out the religious exemption. If they could give a religious exemption that would say to Jews and to Muslims and to other people who practice this by custom, that they could practice this without going to jail or without being fined $1,000, that may not necessarily get any sort of opposition.”
Until then, the political opposition against Troutman’s campaign to ban circumcisions will not be dissipating anytime soon, despite the withdrawal of her petition in Santa Monica, especially with a similar proposal already finding its place on a ballot a few hundred miles up the California coast in San Francisco.
Mayor Richard Bloom, who previously told the Mirror he was staunchly opposed to the proposed ban on circumcisions, reiterated his stance and explained he plans to work with other political leaders in challenging the ballot measure up north.
“I am pleased that Ms. Troutman has decided that she will not pursue the Santa Monica measure,” Bloom said. “However, the San Francisco version of this ill-conceived intrusion on parental rights and religious freedom is further along and is on the ballot there. So, I will turn my attention, and join other area leaders who are organizing to help defeat it in San Francisco.”
In light of the withdrawal, those affiliated with MGMBill.org – MGM stands for Male Genital Mutilation – were inundated with e-mails and requests for interviews. Accordingly, group members had directed all inquiries to its Twitter page, where MGMbill.org would post its public statements.
However the group’s president, Matthew Hess, did take a few moments to inform the Mirror of Troutman’s reasoning for yanking the proposed ballot measure on June 7.
“Jena withdrew the Santa Monica ballot measure on Monday. Jena was understandably concerned about being subjected to personal attacks from various religious groups. She also felt that many of the headlines in the news media were misrepresentative,” Hess said. “Even though there will be no ballot measure in Santa Monica, Jena did help bring additional exposure to the problem of forced circumcision in this country and that alone is an important accomplishment.”
He previously told the Mirror that circumcisions were not necessary and prevent men from having personal control over their bodies. Hess had also cited legal support for his group’s claims to ban male circumcision, including current legislation banning female genital mutilation, a section of the United States Code on Crimes and Criminal Procedure (Title 18, Section 116), and the Equal Protection element of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.