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Also at issue here is whether the convention center is “a public forum,” as Exxxotica insists, or a private business the city can operate as it sees fit, as the state and Citizens Council maintain in an amicus brief filed at the end of last week.
Fitzwater asked Murray if the city has the right to pull Exxxotica’s permit if another convention in the Kay Bailey Hutchison takes offense at its content and threatens to cancel. Murray said no, saying that would be giving into the so-called “heckler’s veto” often at the center of so many First Amendment cases. Murray said that simply lets a private citizen dictate with whom the city does business — and where.
But the Citizens Council argues that the convention center is a commercial enterprise, not a public forum.
And “city leaders have the discretion they need to reasonably manage the convention center,” said attorney Will Thompson, representing the 80-year-old organization of business leaders. He called the convention center “an economic engine” to which only the city should have the keys. He also said it was “reasonable for city leaders to be concerned about the city’s brand.”
Exxxotica, the Citizens Council believes, will damage that brand.
Banning the sex expo is “what we believe is best for the city,” Dallas Citizens Council President Alice Murray said after the hearing. “Pornography, where it goes above and beyond the First Amendment, has a negative impact — it becomes a health hazard. We’re already in crisis when it comes to domestic violence and human trafficking.”
However, she said, the Dallas Citizens Council will “not be going after sexually oriented businesses” in Dallas. Just this one.