More or less, the main voices on the Dallas City Council behind a proposal that will bar City Manager AC Gonzalez from signing a contract with the Exxxotica porn expo in 2016 said Wednesday that they didn't care if they got sued. Protecting Dallas from the convention — with horror, Mayor Mike Rawlings cited a dungeon at the 2015 edition of the show featuring women "being whipped" during a semi-speech against eXXXotica — was more important than avoiding a First Amendment lawsuit.
"I don't think it's appropriate to hide behind judge's robes," Rawlings said. "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 members Jennifer Gates and Rickey Callahan expressed similar sentiments. Callahan, especially, stressed that he was tired of "activist judges" telling him what he could and couldn't do.
“I can’t see the framers of our Constitution believe in the unbridled right of pornography to be displayed in a public facility,” Callahan said, stressing that he held a political science degree and was a certified government teacher.
Adam McGough, who joined Rawlings, Gates, Callahan, Erik Wilson, Tiffinni Young, Carolyn Arnold and Casey Thomas in voting to ban Exxxotica 8-7, stressed the puritanical aspect of the ban.
“The truth is pornography is not just a lie, it’s lethal," he said, before telling the assembled crowd, which included former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and billionaire oilman Ray Hunt, two of Exxxotica's biggest opponents, that he had several friends cursed with an addiction to pornography.
Neither Hutchison nor Hunt spoke, but those who did, including Dallas Citizens Council President Alice Murray, were almost universally opposed to the convention. Multiple speakers drew lines between the performers taking photos with fans and DVDs being sold at Exxxotica and sex trafficking. Murray, through tears, said that she'd been "a statistic" herself, and told the council if they could spare one woman that fate, they'd have done their jobs.
Opponents of the ban cited the city's record of losing First Amendment cases — like it has when it banned feeding the homeless without a permit or protesting near freeways — and, with the help of Dallas Police Chief David Brown, pointed out that undercover vice cops saw no crimes at last year's convention nor was there any Exxxotica-related spike in prostitution. Scott Griggs said that the council was giving free promotion to the convention.
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Dallas City Attorney Warren Ernst, responding to questions from the council, said the city's existing sexually oriented business ordinance didn't apply to Exxxotica because the convention was temporary. According to Chad Ruback, a local civil attorney, the city has to let Exxxotica use the convention center if it wants to allow any private use at all.
"The Dallas City Council’s decision not to allow Exxxotica to rent space in the city-owned convention center will undoubtedly be found unconstitutional by a federal judge. If the city is going to own a convention center and lease it to private parties, the First Amendment to the Constitution precludes the city from discrimination based on the message that those private parties are wanting to express at the convention center. And, like it or not, it is well-established under federal law that erotic displays are protected under the First Amendment," Ruback says.
J. Handy, Exxxotica's organizer, indicated before the vote that he was ready to fight, should it come to it.
"Most importantly, Exxxotica is about one thing: Understanding everyone's right to freedom of speech and expression," he said. "We want to make it abundantly clear, we are talking about an event the city has already deemed legal. We are talking about an event that had zero incidents in 2015. Most importantly, we aren't talking about the council allowing something to exist in Dallas, but about the council recognizing the freedoms afforded to us by the Constitution of the United States. We consider Exxxotica to be on the forefront of the fight for First Amendment rights — a battle we've fought before and a battle we've won."