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February 10, 2016

Dallas City Council Votes Against Exxxotica-UPDATED

DALLAS, Tex.—At just about 11 a.m. Pacific time, the Dallas City Council voted to pass the resolution introduced by Mayor Mike Rawlings which would direct the City Manager, who has charge over the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, "to not enter into a contract with Three Expo Events, LLC, for the lease of the Dallas Convention Center." What that means is that the Exxxotica Lifestyle Convention, which is owned by Three Expo, will not be allowed to hold its convention at the city-owned convention center—an outcome that sets the city up for a massive First Amendment lawsuit. The genesis of the mayor's resolution seems to be from the Hunt family: Ray Lee, the billionaire oilman who owns 30 acres in the heart of the city, and his wife, Nancy Ann, chair of an anti-trafficking organization based in Dallas. On the other hand, however, last week the council had a closed-door meeting with the Dallas police chief, the city's Vice Squad and other officials who had attended Exxxotica's August, 2015 convention in the city—in fact, the same venue currently under discussion—and the officials all assured the councilmembers that nothing untoward or illegal had happened during the convention. But apparently, those assurances fell on deaf ears. AVN was able to hear the last part of the City Council hearing, whose venue was filled to overflowing with concerned citizens, and none of the final three speakers, at least, had any love for free sexual speech. "One of the very early lessons I learned in life is, you don't go where you're not welcome," said District 7 Councilwoman Tiffinni A. Young. "This is not something that this city supports. This is not something you look forward to as something for our children to look up to and see around in the community." In response to Young's questions, Dallas City Attorney Warren Ernst assured the council that the resolution would not stop Exxxotica from seeking a venue elsewhere in the city, and also that the city ordinance controlling adult-oriented businesses would not apply to Exxxotica because the convention would be "temporary" rather than a permanent business. Some were also concerned that by calling so much attention to the issue, the council and the convention's opponents—of the 18 speakers who addressed the council, 17 were opposed—were giving the show enough free publicity to guarantee its success. "Now, they’re probably going to be here every year," said District 1's Scott Griggs, "because if the resolution passes we’ll end up in court and it’ll bring so much publicity, and they’ll have an order from a federal judge saying they can. The PR windfall from this has been a shame." "I want to start by first saying that I too am supportive of the First Amendment, and I believe, though, that we can vote in support of the mayor's resolution and still be in support of the First Amendment," said District 13 Councilwoman Jennifer S. Gates. "This isn't a ban. It's not saying that it's—as Mr. Magoo says; thank you for your work—that we can use other case law to say why this is still supportive of the First Amendment. Gates noted that when the council was notified in mid-2015 that Exxxotica would be coming to the convention center, that there was already a contract in place, and that if the council had tried to stop it, it would have been in breach of that contract. Gates seemed to think that in the absence of a contract for an upcoming show, the council was in a better legal position to keep Exxxotica out of the convention center. She also indicated that she was not concerned that enacting the ban would reflect poorly on the council's public relations. "I'm not going to be silent about this," Gates declared. "I'm not going to be silent about an industry that's exploiting women and children, and you know what? If that makes more people attend, then more people attend, but my silence isn't an excuse." "I haven't heard from a single constituent that's come to this microphone today and told me that this is good for Dallas," she added. "I may have heard from a couple emails from a few people, but less than a handful that told me this is a good idea. I've heard from several of my own—you see those that are listed in District 13—and I've heard from lots of them that have emailed me. They don't want it, and you know what? They're aware of the legalities because the Dallas Morning News has done a good job of letting them know that this could put us at risk, and they're still letting us know that they don't want it in our city. "This is a tough vote, and it may make us at a legal risk," she added, "but we've taken challenges on before that meant a lot ot our citizens, and I feel confident—I didn't originally, but now I've heard from the people, I've heard from you today, I've heard from the emails; I feel confident our citizens are telling us they don't want this, it's not what they stand for, and they don't want to take that risk that this can lead to that underbelly current of the exploittion of women and children, and they want us to stand up, so I'm comfortable with standing up with the mayor." The final speaker before the council's vote was District 5's Richey D. Callahan, and he too expressed support for the resolution. "I appreciate all the folks who felt like it mattered enough to come down and exprtess your First Amendment rights," he began. "I'm tired of being silent. We've all been cowed and wher you can't say anything or you might offend somebody. I know they're stepping on your toes but you gotta give them the right. Well, what about my rights, what about your rights, what about our rights as a city? ... When I grew up and I understood the way the law was, I just can't see that the Framers of our Constitution and the writings in the Federalist Papers in no way believe in the unbridled or unrestricted right to allow pornography to be displayed in a public facility. There's something wrongheaded about that... "I want to leave you with this: If you think the display of leather and whips and viewing folks in dominatrix outfits or suggestions of sadomasochism or anything that they're marketing—again, there's three X's in there, folks. You seen it on the billboards. We're not talking about one X, we're not talking about soft porn; they're marketing with those three X's. Now, whether or not they actually do it or not, it doesn't matter. They want you to think that, 'Man, this is real stuff, XXX.' But if you think that's oikay, then you go ahead and support that, but I'm not going to, but I'm really tired of activistic judges and people telling me that I can't do this or I can't do that. Today, if you checked on your calendar this morning, is Ash Wednesday. Perhaps today would be a good day to give up Exxxotica, and maybe for the city of Dallas to give it up too." In the end, it was a close vote, 8-7, but the resolution passed—thereby setting the city up for a very expensive court battle. "We’ll walk straight out of here and into our lawyer’s office," Exxxotica organizer J. Handy told reporters as he left the council chamber following the vote. "We have already begun seeking the advice of counsel, and will be seeking an injunction against the city of Dallas to let Exxxotica return to the city as planned," said Three Expo spokesperson Daniel Adams. "Even though several councilmembers who voted for the resolution stated, 'We know this is not the correct thing for us to do, against the advice of our counsel and the city attorneys,' and it is their constitutional right, but because of their moral beliefs, they voted for the resolution. We look forward to winning an injunction and proceeding with Exxxotica as planned in Dallas." The convention is reportedly hoping to have a Dallas show by mid-2016. This isn't the first time that Exxxotica has had venue problems. In 2010, the city of Secaucus, New Jersey passed its own ban, forcing the convention to relocate to Edison. Three Expo sued, and Secaucus settled the case in 2011 for an undisclosed amount. "We've faced similar opposition in the past," noted one person familiar with Exxxotica's history. "We know they [the city council] are not doing what they should be doing." UPDATE: In a formal statement released this afternoon, Exxxotica reiterated its displeasure with the vote and renewed its vow to seek legal recourse. "At the special meeting, ministers and citizens spoke out both for and against the expo’s return to the city-owned Dallas Convention Center with a resolution from Mayor Rawlings for the city-owned exhibit hall to not enter into contract with Exxxotica," the press release stated. "Several council members supported allowing the show to go on, stating that after testimony from the management of the convention center, Dallas Police, Dallas Vice, and other city officials had reported no incidents during the show’s debut in the city last year. "Council members, both for and against the May 2016 show, also stated that on the advice from the city attorney, the show had the constitutional right to take place and there were not any legal reasons to disallow or block the event. All council members were advised that the city would most likely be sued by the producers of Exxxotica, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, and that it would most likely lose. "We absolutely have the right to produce the event at the convention center and the citizens of Dallas have a right to attend," said J. Handy, director of Three Expo, producers of the Exxxotica Expo. "And after today’s testimonies, we realize the City of Dallas understands those rights. It’s just unfortunate that their personal, religious and conservative beliefs compelled them to make decision which obviously violates the law."

 
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