Dallas City Council Bans Exxxotica From Using Convention Center

Get ready for a legal fight.

Jennifer Staubach Gates said she doesn't want anything happening behind closed doors in Dallas that she doesn't approve of.
Jennifer Staubach Gates said she doesn’t want anything happening behind closed doors in Dallas that she doesn’t approve of.

Today’s title fight at the horseshoe — over the mayor’s proposal to ban the Exxxotica sex show from returning to the city-owned Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center — unsurprisingly centered on the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment vs. the desire not to contribute to the exploitation of women and girls.

The measure was approved, by a vote of 8-7. Those in favor were Adam McGough, Carolyn Arnold, Casey Thomas, Erik Wilson, Jennifer Staubach Gates, Mayor Mike Rawlings, Rickey Callahan, and Tiffinni Young. Against it were Adam Medrano, Lee Kleinman, Mark Clayton, Monica Alonzo, Philip Kingston, Sandy Greyson, and Scott Griggs.

Rawlings began the council’s debate by explaining that he proposed the resolution as part of his (self-described) duties as “chief brand officer” and said that he doesn’t believe the event is good for Dallas’ reputation.

He drew parallels between this potential legal fight and past fights the city has accepted even when it knew it was likely to be sued, as with denying gas drilling in a park or the (short-lived) plastic-bag ban. (Though, it should be noted, neither of those disputes centered on constitutional matters.)

Rawlings’ case was essentially that denying Exxxotica the use of the convention center is no different than restrictions the city is allowed to put on such things as the size and placement of billboards. There are many such decisions where the city has a right to determine to what length the freedom of speech extends.

“I read online that there’s a place [in the Exxxotica event] called the Dungeon, where women are tied up and whipped,” Rawlings said, his voice breaking with emotion. “There’s where it crossed the line for me.”

City Councilman Mark Clayton said it makes no sense to move forward with a measure that will not ultimately not prevent the Exxxotica show from taking place in Dallas and will (according to city attorneys) lead to the city being sued. He’d rather take money that would have to go to a legal fight and donate it to nonprofits that assist victims of domestic violence.

Clayton reasoned that if the council is going to begin making decisions about what events the convention center can or can’t accommodate based purely on each event’s content, then perhaps all events should have to come before the council for a vote. He drew a comparison to hosting gun shows that sell assault rifles, a practice he’d rather not have the city support.

Philip Kingston then asked city attorney Warren Ernst to clarify whether Section 41A of the city code would apply as a defense of the resolution — as some supporters of the mayor’s resolution had asserted. Ernst said that’s a land-use ordinance, which means it applies to the official occupant of the facility (the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau) and that it does not apply to temporary events, like Exxxotica, that are hosted there.

With that established, Kingston said that the larger issue is why the city owns a convention center at all. “If you have one, you will have an event like this, and you may have one that’s far, far worse,” he said. “We don’t have to be in this business.”

He further argued that the city’s financial support for the convention center would be better spent in fighting the persistent poverty rate — citing poverty as having far strong connections to sexual crimes than do events like Exxxotica.

Scott Griggs called even the consideration of the resolution a mistake, as it has provided a PR boost to Exxxotica, raising awareness of the event that will likely aid its attendance.

Carolyn Arnold, in favor of the resolution, argued the city shouldn’t be “bullied” into not taking a stand just because of the threat of a lawsuit. “Our city attorneys will have to bite the bullet,” she said.

Jennifer Staubach Gates, despite having proposed her own resolution that would have condemned but not disallowed the Exxxotica event, spoke in support of the mayor’s proposal. She said she’s convinced that it’s not incompatible with the First Amendment. “I’m not going to stay silent and let things happen behind closed doors in the city of Dallas that I don’t approve of,” she said.

Rickey Callahan invoked the words of famed 18th-century British statesman Edmund Burke in explaining why he’s not going to let “activist judges” tell him what should or shouldn’t be allowed in Dallas: “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.”

A parade of speakers — former U.S. Senator (and convention center namesake) Kay Bailey Hutchison among the crowd — who appeared before the council vote were unanimously in favor of the resolution. Most of them drew connections between a sexually-oriented exposition like Exxxotica and violence against women, including sex trafficking.

There was a faith-based bent to a number of their arguments, as when Stephen Mansfield, CEO of Methodist Hospital System of North Texas, said “Pornography, at its root, defies the basic tenets of the world’s major religions.”

Others made the case that Exxxotica should qualify as a sexually-oriented business, which might have established grounds to deny it a permit under Section 41A of the city code. “How do you explain the harm you’re about to profit from?” said Katie Pedigo, CEO of the nonprofit New Friends New Life, which assists sexually exploited women and their children.

Alice Murray, president of the Dallas Citizens Council, got emotional during her time before the council, choking back tears as she revealed that she has herself been a victim of domestic violence. “If you can spare just one young woman that experience, you’ve done your job today,” she said.

Only a representative of the company that runs Exxxotica spoke at the podium against the resolution, highlighting how safely the event went off last year, saying that the show’s purpose is “to celebrate sex in a positive and educational way.”

It looks like the thousands of people who attended Exxxotica last year and would like to have returned will have to seek other means of furthering their sexual educations — at least until a lawsuit results in an injunction that requires the city to allow the event.

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Comments

  • aerorazavi

    Maybe Hunt will pay the settlement. What’s it to him money wise? He placates the wife and a former Senator. Chalk this up as a “Honey-do”.

  • OldLakeHighlander

    Oh well, it’s only money going down a rat hole so our City Atty office can once again look like the fools and puppets that they are in trying to defend this foolishness.
    And Adam McGough, I’m deeply disappointed in you. Your constituents deserve better than feel-good, doomed-to-fail resolutions.

    • jfpo

      Showed his Parkie colors today.

  • LakewoodMom

    Kay Bailey Hutchison

  • LakewoodMom

    Kay Bailey Hutchison did not speak

  • Ox-Bow

    So what the city council basically said is that our convention center business, that all us citizens pay for, will no longer be competing for dollars from cities like, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Los Angeles, etc. We will only compete with Branson MO and maybe Durant, OK. I would rather our mayor be a smarter businessman than a “brand ambassador” and our city council people be better business developers rather than try to be my priest/preacher.

  • Lolotehe

    It’s not like we needed the money anyway, right?

    • trek1red

      Unfortunately, the convention center is loosing lots of money which has to be made up by Dallas Taxpayers.

  • MattL1

    Eh, the convention center has been such a financial boon for the city that I’m SURE they can afford to just turn away business.

    I assume that they’re also going to deny Texas and OU the ability to play in the city-owned Cotton Bowl now because their game tends to bring a spike in criminal activity to town every year.

    • Anne Mckinney-page

      It is all that BIG profit they are pulling in from the Omni Hotel… that lets them have enough of a cash buffer… to turn away the business.

  • Sam

    LOL…. the overmoralists have decided what is good and bad for people to do with their own time again.

  • DGirl

    Congratulations to Mayor Rawlings, the city of Dallas and everyone who supported the Mayor’s resolution to ban that convention from being held at the city-owned convention center. As much as the opposition calls those against this convention “prudes,” “haters,” “uptight Christians,” and whatever else, we will not be bullied by the threat of lawsuits or hate speak. The light shined brighter than the darkness today. Thanks for those who spoke up.

  • James Scott

    Thanks for being awful, Dallas.

  • @zaccrain

    The mayor made a decision purely on emotion and a sort of willful misreading of facts that will probably cost us a nice pile of cash, so that’s great.

    • Ox-Bow

      The irony is that the city will eventually be effectively funding the very thing the council voted on to ban.

  • Ripshed

    Let’s see, the city will most certainly be sued and lose on well-established 1A grounds and be forced to allow the expo to proceed, if not forced to pay damages and/or legal fees. Thousands, if not millions of people who haven’t heard of this expo will now hear of it. The expo will inevitably return and run at capacity due to the popularity, netting the expo even more money and attention.

    Exxxotica applauds your efforts.

  • Anne Mckinney-page

    There is a BIG difference between sexual expression, and domestic violence.

    Are they going to block certain Religious groups… who promote male domination

    over Women… because THAT is Domestic abuse.

  • Don Brosey

    Can we please take a wrecking ball to that dinosaur of a convention center and replace it with something useful, something that would add to the fabric of our city, and provide some return on investment?

  • Paul

    Contrary to the consensus here, the Mayor’s position almost certainly matches the sentiment of most people in Dallas. I very much doubt that the organizers will file a lawsuit – they’re business people, not activists – they’ll simply go elsewhere. I also predict this will have zero negative effect in attracting the kinds of convention business we actually want.

  • MattL1

    That’s because you are prudes, haters, and uptight Christians. Don’t like it? Don’t go. Simple solution. What’s wrong with that?

    • Montemalone

      Harrumph!

  • Bizarro BigTex

    Seems like this vote could be the spark to start the discussion what role city support of a convention venue or trade center should take, if any. The Apparel Mart functioned fine for many years without yearly taxpayer infusions. The World Trade Center seems to be doing fine in current economic times. Private business can build and partner on facilities that are driven by demand. And if someone needs the old style convention configuration, there are nice facilities in Arlington and in Fort Worth. As Mayor Rawlings always says, Dallas stretches out beyond the city limits. Time for him to walk that talk and get the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center off the public dole of Big D.

  • Nor did Jason say she did. She was merely in attendance.

  • jfpo

    You will see an injunction filed by the end of the week.

  • Montemalone

    Um, if Dallasites, and Planoites and Ft Worthians and Friscoians had stayed away in droves from the previous event, I doubt the organizers would have wanted to return for Part Deux.

  • Michael Kenyon

    Did Jennifer Staubach Gates,really say “I’m not going to stay silent and let things happen behind closed doors in the city of Dallas that I don’t approve of,”? I’m pretty sure it is none of her GD business what happens behind my closed doors.

    • Mari Me

      It’s really not wise for CM Gates to wag her finger about morality unless she wants to publicly discuss the past during her mayoral campaign.

    • Lee Gibson

      Legacy council member Gates should remember she is merely a legacy council member and not Queen of Dallas.

  • Katie Patterson

    “I read online that there’s a place [in the Exxxotica event] called the Dungeon, where women are tied up and whipped,” Rawlings said, his voice breaking with emotion. “There’s where it crossed the line for me.”

    There’s a thing called consent, Mayor, and what people do with mutual consent might not fit into your pretty little glittery box.

  • EricCeleste

    That is masterful trolling.

  • David Burrows

    Maybe it went something like….

    KBH: “How can we get Dallas on CNN this week?”
    MR: “Oh! I got an idea!”

  • BenderTheMagnificent

    What is it about Christians that makes them want to dictate the private lives of individuals? “I’m not going to stay silent and let things happen behind closed doors in the city of Dallas that I don’t approve of,” – Jennifer Gates and every other self-righteous “Christian” who can’t remember the actual teachings of Jesus. Things like acceptance, forgiveness, and not judging others.

  • tested123

    I’m not a prude, but I’d rather not have this event here. As such, I am appalled at the Mayor and council’s decision to do something that will ensure this event is here in perpetuity. Dallas will lose the lawsuit, and once it does the perverts behind this event will have a legal document stating that the city must allow them to hold the event in the convention center. They apparently have to fight this in many cities they visit. Now they will have a legal win that means they don’t have to do that here ever again. It will just make Dallas the logical place to hold this event every hear. Stupid. The publicity of this fight only increases its visibility. Frankly, maybe it is time we reconsider being in the convention business if the city is going to mishandle it in such a ridiculous way. Bet the land the convention center sits on would fetch hundreds of millions of dollars.