Voters in San Francisco will decide in November whether to ban the circumcision of boys.
As the Associated Press reports, on Wednesday officials said that supporters of the ballot measure had obtained more than 7,700 valid signatures among the city’s registered voters, passing the threshold of 7,168 needed to qualify.
If successful, the initiative would make the circumcision of males under 18 a misdemeanor offense with penalties of up to $1,000 or one year in jail. There would be no religious exemption for the practice, traditionally considered sacred by Jews and also widely practiced by Muslims.
The initiative appears to be the first of its kind to advance this far in the U.S., although a national debate over the health benefits of circumcision has raged for years.
Circumcision has been found in some studies to have health benefits to men and their sexual partners.
For example, researchers have found that men who have been circumcised have a reduced risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, during heterosexual intercourse.
Other research, led by scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that male circumcision reduced the prevalence of human papillomavirus in their female partners. HPV infection causes cervical cancer in women and also is linked to anal cancer.
However, supporters of the ban have described circumcision as genital mutilation and say it is a painful, dangerous and unnecessary choice that parents do not have the right to make.
“Parents are really guardians, and guardians have to do what’s in the best interest of the child,” said Lloyd Schofield, a longtime San Francisco resident who is the lead proponent for the ballot measure.
The measure is nearly certain to face legal challenges from opponents, who say the proposal is a flagrant violation of the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.