In late February the adult-themed expo Exxxotica followed through on its threat to sue after Dallas City Council voted to ban the event from its public convention center. A class action suit was also a possibility, but Chino Salas, owner of Gentlemen’s Texas Magazine and ToplessFinder.com, dropped his lawsuit. Although other prospective attendees or vendors like Silas haven’t lawyered up, Dallas and event runners Three Expo Events LLC are in the thick of what will likely be a dragged out legal battle that comes with a hefty bill for taxpayers.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater ruled against Three Expo’s request for a preliminary injunction on Dallas’s Exxxotica ban. Fitzwater doesn’t mince words in his 32-page opinion, saying that Dallas’s decision to decline a Exxxotica the second year of the expo at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is well within their rights. Fitzwater said that the convention center is a limited public forum and the city’s arguments for denying a contract are are reasonable and have a neutral viewpoint. Fitzwater doesn’t exactly think this is a clear violation of Exxxotica’s First Amendment rights as Three Expo claims.
That’s partly because Exxxotica apparently didn’t hold up to their end of a deal with the city in 2015. Last year, Three Expo entered into an agreement with Dallas that “prohibited from the display of less than completely and opaquely covered genitals, pubic region, anus and female breasts below a point immediately above the top of the areolas” at Exxxotica. Also not allowed: sexual activities such as the “fondling or other erotic touching of genitals, pubic region, buttocks, anus or female breasts.” Dallas reportedly got their hands on video evidence that Exxxotica’s 2015 event broke these established contractual rules.
Fitzwater stated that though he shot down a preliminary injunction, that “does not necessarily mean that, with further discovery and development of the evidentiary record, it cannot prevail on its merits.” The event was supposed to take place from May 20-22, a deadline it definitely won’t make, but that doesn’t have much of a bearing on what happens when this case goes to trial. Three Expo may not have won the right to have its adult-oriented bonanza in Dallas, but a monetary award for financial damages is still possible. No matter the outcome of a prospective trial, this will still cost Dallas and its taxpayers a pretty penny.
As some Dallas City Council members who voted against the ban have pointed out, the lawsuit is costing the city of Dallas $4,000 a day. According to that estimate, that puts the total somewhere just south of $350,000 right now. And that tab is open.
Legal experts, commentators and nearly half of the city council have called this effort to block the expo misguided and an easy loss. Let the record show that maybe this wasn’t the no-brainer many thought it’d be, but comments made by city officials who voted for the ban make it pretty clear that this is first and foremost about blocking the peddling of smut. Mayor Mike Rawlings, who has dubbed himself the city’s “chief brand manager,” doesn’t think a sexpo would be, er, good branding. City councilman Adam McGough told the Dallas Morning News that “the truth is pornography is not just a lie, it’s lethal.”
Regardless of evidence of a breach of contract, it appears as though Dallas is in the midst of a costly legal battle funded by citizens all in the name of a moral stance. No matter how Exxxotica brands itself, it is an exposition heavily centered around and funded by pornography. The banner on its website features two different virtual cyber sex sites and another that deals in awareness, prevention, and recovery for porn addiction. The city doesn’t want anything to do with it, and is willing to fight for its “brand” in what is, win or lose, seen by many as a frivolous lawsuit that places taxpayer’s dollars in a furnace and burns it at will. And that’s a decidedly un-sexy image.