AB 768 California Senate Judiciary Committee
1. Proponents and opponents of AB 768 were invited to submit, by 5 pm on Friday last week, any briefs, letters, emails, faxes, etc to Ms. Ronak Daylami, an attorney who serves as staff counsel to the committee. Her job was to use the next 3 days to digest the relevant data points and arguments, evaluate and analyze the proposed bill in terms of how it changes existing law, how well it achieves its stated goals, whether it passes the "Lemon test" [using e.g. California Educational Authority v. Priest
(1974) 12 Cal.3d 593; and East Bay Asian Local Development Corp. v. State of California (2000) 102 Cal.Rptr.2d 280], and whether it is constitutional. Ms. Daylami was supposed to present both sides of the argument and analyze each. Several parties on each side submitted amicus briefs.
2. The Judiciary Committee consists of 5 members: Chairwoman Noreen Evans (D), Vice Chair Tom Harman (R), Sam Blakeslee (R), Ellen Corbett (D), and Mark Leno (D).
3. Senator Evans called the hearing to order. She explained that proponents and opponents of AB 768 would each get 3 speakers at 3 minutes each. If others in the gallery wished to be recognized, they could later state their name and their support or opposition for the record.
4. First speaker in favor of the bill was Spencer ??? representing the California Medical Association. He spoke for only 2 minutes, and emphasized that the CMA has long considered circumcision an effective public health measure. He also stressed that no local jurisdiction should interfere with the practice of medicine. Second speaker was Cliff Berg, representing a Jewish Congress. He stated that the bill was necessary to prevent future attempts to curtail religious rights. He spoke less than 2 minutes. Last speaker was Valerie Small-Navarro with the Northern California ACLU. She was the most impassioned of the speakers, and said that there were important civil liberties at stake and that her organization was firmly behind AB 768. She spoke for less than 3 minutes.
5. No one else stepped up to be recognized as being in favor of the bill.
6. Senator Mark Leno made a special request of the representative from the CMA. Leno said he anticipated that opponents of AB 768 were going to liken male circumcision to FGM, and he wanted a clarification that the CMA distinguishes between them. The response he got was probably not what he was looking for; the CMA spokesman merely said that the CMA hadn't studied female circumcision much. He said there were initial indications that male circumcision helped with sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, but he wasn't aware of much research connecting FGM and HIV. (This was actually a great opportunity for us.)
7. First speaker opposed to the bill was Brian Levitt. He spoke for just over 2 minutes about how he felt harmed, how AB 768 was bad law, and the "emergency" nature of the bill was moot. Second speaker was Tina Kimmel. She listed very impressive educational and professional credentials, and spoke passionately about how biased Ronal Daylami's legislative analysis was. She also denounced the culture of circumcision. Third speaker was Lloyd Schofield, party in interest of SFMGMbill. He explained how MGMbill has been mischaracterized as a ban, when it is clarification of circumcision as an emergency medical procedure. Lloyd explained the anatomy of circumcision and touched on the trauma it causes. Both TIna and Lloyd ran a fair bit over the allotted time and were reminded by the Chair to wrap up their points.
8. Several opponents of AB 768 took the opportunity to register their objections at the podium. They were Marilyn Milos, Steve Brown, Kirsten Barquist, Jonathan Conte, Sophia Williams and Frank McGinniss (who spoke a bit on foreskin restoration).
9. Chairwoman Evans noted that circumcision is a controversial issue, and a YES vote by the committee should not necessarily be construed as an endorsement of circumcision. (This was preposterous to even say, because the language of the bill clearly praises circumcision.) She noted that she was once married to a Jewish man and they had a son. She did a lot of soul-searching before they decided it was in their son's best interest that he be circumcised. So she knows how painful this is, or something like that. She said she would be voting YES.
10. Chairwoman Evans called for discussion to close and a vote to be held. It was 5 "ayes", no "nays", in favor of sending AB 768 on to the full California Senate for a vote. Unanimous.