City Hall

Rematch: Exxxotica Restarts Fight Against the City of Dallas

Three Expo Events, the company behind the Exxxotica porn convention that graced Dallas in May 2015, is again asking a federal judge to force the city to book the event at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center.

Here's the legal backstory. Acting at the behest of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, the Dallas City Council in February voted 8-7 to ban Exxxotica from the convention center. Exxotica's producer, Three Expo, and its owner J. Handy sued the city, claiming that the convention center was a public forum. In banning Exxxotica, the suit alleged, the city placed an undue restraint on Three Expo's constitutional right to sell porn DVDs and host bondage workshops.

The city's attorneys argued that Three Expo misled the Dallas Convention and Visitor's Bureau about the content of the convention when it was booking the site. They claimed Exxxotica's location at the convention center violated Dallas' longstanding sexually oriented business ordinance.

In April, U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater declined to force the city to book Exxxotica in 2016. Fitzwater ruled that Handy had not proved that the convention center was a designated public forum because Three Expo had not provided evidence "that the City had opened up the Convention Center for all types of expressive activity."

During the last few months, attorneys for Three Expo found what they think is that evidence. On Tuesday, Three Expo filed for another injunction, providing more than 300 pages of documentation that it says shows the city allowed each and every convention that asked to use the convention center. That is, until Exxxotica tried to return.

"The facts demonstrate that Dallas’s Convention Center — from its inception to the present — was intended and has served as a vibrant public forum where expression has been welcomed, encouraged, and has flourished," Three Expo says in its filing. "The City’s policies and practices have established Dallas’s Convention Center as a place open for use by citizens of varied beliefs, passions, and interests."

The brief quotes a statement from the convention center that Council member Jennifer Gates, a strong supporter of the ban, emailed to constituents when they complained about Exxxotica's place on the 2015 convention center calendar. "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable," the convention center statement reads.

The statement, Three Expo argues, reveals the city's intent that the convention center be open to all comers. Other potentially objectionable events hosted at the convention center include the Dallas Safari Club's black rhino hunt auction, various gun shows and the Video Software Dealers Software Association annual meeting. The Video Software Dealers Software Association is a pornography distributor trade group.

Throughout its fight with Exxxotica, the city of Dallas has argued that the convention center, rather than being a public forum, is a commercial interest. If that's the case, Tom Brandt argued in April, the city can act to further its commercial enterprise. Brandt's argument echoes Rawlings'. The mayor believes Exxxotica is bad for the city's brand.

The city also claims that Exxxotica breached its 2015 contract, despite Dallas police reporting no public obscenity violations at the show, so the convention center is not obligated to welcome it back.

"I knew that our police activity was really limited. ... When the [Dallas Police Vice Squad] was there, they were just there for an hour here and an hour there to make sure nobody was dead," Rawlings told the Observer in March. "This stuff was happening in corners. Look, we should've found that out, but the bigger thing is, a company entered into a contract saying that wasn't going to happen and it did happen."

As of its latest payment authorization in August, the city has spent more than $400,000 on its attorneys in its fight with Exxxotica, which will last well over a year if the case is not settled.
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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