Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has thrown his support behind Mayor Mike Rawlings' and the City Council's effort to keep the Exxxotica adult expo out of the convention center. Currently under felony indictment and facing an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the state's top lawyer insists in a legal brief filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday that the Dallas owned and operated Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is not a public forum. Even if it were, he wrote, the city's ban does not amount to an unconstitutional prior restraint of free speech.
"It is vital that governmental entities have the ability to exclude sexually oriented businesses from property that they own,” Paxton said. “The city of Dallas, through its democratically elected officials, has rightfully decided that its convention center should not be home to an event where obscenity and criminal activity occurs. A federal court should not overturn that decision by elected officials."
Paxton's argument, one that the city has not made in its filings in the lawsuit, is that the convention center is not a forum like a public park or sidewalk because the city operates it for commercial purposes.
"[T]he Convention Center is a nonpublic forum because the City — 'acting as a proprietor' — manages the Convention Center as a commercial asset. The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that government use of a property as a 'commercial enterprise' is 'inconsistent with an intent to designate the [property] as a public forum.' Because the Convention Center is a commercial enterprise that is intended to promote economic development in Dallas, the Convention Center is a nonpublic forum," the brief says.
The Dallas Citizens Council, which Paxton describes as "a nonprofit organization comprising business and civic leaders in the Dallas region whose sole purpose is to provide leadership on public policy issues to improve the lives of Dallas citizens," joined the attorney general's brief, saying in a statement that it was "grateful to Mayor Rawlings and Attorney General Paxton for their leadership on this critically important issue. The city must have the right to manage these assets in a manner that best serves the city.”
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The citizens council's former chairman, Ray Hunt, spearheaded the push for the ban and celebrated in the City Council's chambers with the convention center's namesake Hutchison when it passed by an 8-7 vote. Before the vote, debate did not center on whether allowing Exxxotica to use the convention center was good for the city's business interests — although Rawlings did at least nod in that direction, saying that he believed banning Exxxotica was the right thing to do to maintain the city's brand.
“The truth is pornography is not just a lie, it’s lethal," District 10 council member Adam McGough said.
McGough's colleague Rickey Callahan called Exxxotica "hardcore stuff" and both Rawlings and Jennifer Gates drew a line between the convention and domestic violence.