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California cities and counties could not ban circumcision of male children under a proposed state law that cleared the Legislature today.

The Assembly overwhelmingly concurred in Senate amendments, 67-2, and the measure now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has taken no position on it.

Assembly Bill 768 would prevent local governments from enacting laws prohibiting the circumcision of male children.

The measure was sparked by a circumcision ban that initially qualified for San Francisco's November ballot but was removed by a Superior Court judge, who ruled that an existing state law pre-empted it.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Los Angeles Democrat, opted to continue pushing his bill after the court ruling. He has characterized circumcision as a personal, medical and religious freedom.

AB 768 would take effect immediately if signed by Brown, which would prevent the possibility of a San Francisco vote on banning child circumcision if the Superior Court ruling is overturned on appeal.

Gatto contends that passage of AB 768 also would serve as a deterrent to other circumcision opponents, who might consider placing a similar initiative on their local ballot in years to come.

San Francisco's first-of-its-kind initiative drew national attention for targeting circumcision, removal of the male foreskin, a practice that has biblical roots and that many believe was commanded by God in a covenant with Abraham.

Opponents of circumcision liken it to "genital mutilation" - the forced removal of a healthy body part from an unconsenting child. The San Francisco initiative allowed for a medical exclusion but not a religious exclusion.


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