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Initiative to Ban Circumcision Comes to Santa Monica  

By Ann K. Williams
Lookout Staff

May 20, 2011 – A measure outlawing circumcision in Santa Monica may be on the fall ballot if its proponents get enough support.

A Notice of Intent to Circulate a Petition for an initiative called “Genital Cutting of Male Minors” signed by Jena Troutman was filed with the City Clerk Friday. A similar measure made it onto San Francisco's ballot Wednesday.

The proposed ordinance has already drawn criticism.

Mayor Richard Bloom told The Lookout Friday that it raises red flags when it comes to religious rights and women's health. Not only is circumcision a sacred obligation for many members of the Jewish faith, but medical studies have shown that it reduces women's chances of contracting cervical cancer, he said.

Bloom's points were echoed and amplified by Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniel of Beth Shir Shalom, a progressive Reform synagogue.

“The reality is that from a traditional Jewish point of view, this is a religious mandate,” Comess-Daniel told The Lookout. “For the secular government to say a religious mandate is illegal is problematic.”

Though careful to say he couldn't speak to the legality of the ordinance, Comess-Daniel said it looked like it might represent a violation of separation of church and state.

Just as a woman has a right to choose, so, the “family's right to choose” to circumcise their son might be protected by the law, he said.

And while “there's divided opinion among the medical community,” most men will have female partners who might have less of a chance of developing uterine cancer if their partners are circumcised, said Comess-Daniel.

While the Lookout was unable to find contact information for Jean Troutman, the Notice of Intent included a website,, which advertised that the law has been “resubmitted to congress and 14 state legislatures.” The mgmbill organization appears to be based in San Diego.

Supporters, who call themselves “intactivists,” say that circumcision is both a physical and psychological trauma, and prevents men from “experiencing sex the way nature intended.” They claim the enormity of the surgery is comparable to female genital mutilation, and it should be outlawed for the same reasons.

Calling circumcision “harmful and outdated,” the Notice of Intent states that criminal prosecution would “send a strong message that Santa Monica abhors this practice and views its abolition as paramount to the health and welfare of these young children.”

Should the law make it on the books, the penalties for breaking it would include a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

Once Troutman publishes the notice and the ballot title and summary, she will have 180 days to collect enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.


“For the secular government to say a religious mandate is illegal is problematic.” Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniel

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