City Hall

Exxxotica Lawsuit Is Ready, but the Company's Giving Dallas One Last Chance

Finally, Exxxotica CEO J Handy has fulfilled his promise of presenting a completed complaint to the city of Dallas over the City Council's decision to ban his sex expo from the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center. Rather than dropping his suit directly on the city's head by way of a federal court filing, however, Handy has given the city an ultimatum through his attorney Roger Albright.

"At this stage, this dispute remains a relatively simple matter of whose convention center it is, how might the convention center be managed or marketed and/or the economic losses my client will suffer by being denied access. If, instead, this becomes a culture war between competing values and beliefs fomented by outside forces, the city of Dallas, its citizens and the First Amendment will all lose," Albright writes.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and seven members of the council voted to ban the convention earlier this month, despite an admission from the mayor — and an admonition from the city attorney — that the city would probably get sued for denying the use of a public accommodation to Handy and his company.

"I don't think it's appropriate to hide behind judges' robes," Rawlings said on February 10. "We were very clear that we were going to be sued when we did our decision to limit gas drilling, and we did what we thought was right for the city. Damn the judicial system, we're going to take this on."

Council member Scott Griggs, who helped marshal the opposition to the Rawlings ban, accused those fighting Exxxotica of providing free promotion for the convention. In a sense, Griggs was proved right when the ban blew up in the face of the council members who voted for it.

After the ban was passed, Adultcon, an Exxxotica competitor, asked for space at the convention center. Chino Salas, who just wants to attend Exxxotica this year after enjoying himself last year as a vendor, has already sued the city.

"No one has even considered the idea that the freaking exhibitors and vendors could sue us and they're going to win also," council member Philip Kingston says. "And there are lots of them. It's very clear to me that we've made the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center the premier venue in North America for porn conventions."

Kingston says that he took a lap of the council offices Tuesday afternoon to see if anyone who voted for the ban would be willing to make a motion to reconsider the ban at Wednesday's council meeting. So far, he says, he hasn't found any takers, despite the fact that anyone changing their mind would, to Kingston, be in a no-lose situation.

"For somebody who cares about the image of the city and somebody who cares about trying to keep porn out of our city to say, look, 'I voted for this ban because I thought it was the right thing to do at the time, but I now see that we're going to have unlimited legal liability and, as a fiduciary of the citizens' tax dollars, I can't ignore that, and, separately, the practical effect of my vote is to bring more porn to the city, not less.' I think somebody could say that and look very responsible," Kingston says.

If Kingston or Griggs or one of the other members of the council against the ban manages to turn one of their colleagues, any vote to overturn the ban would be held, at the earliest, on March 23, the next council agenda meeting after Wednesday.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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