HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Houston’s City Council has changed a city ordinance in a move that would essentially stop a so-called robot brothel from opening.
A Canadian company had said it wants to open a “love dolls brothel” in Houston in which people would be able to use its human-like dolls on the premises.
But Houston’s City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a change to a city ordinance that regulates sexually-oriented businesses.
The change would ban individuals from having sex with an “anthropomorphic device,” a device resembling a human being.
Houston City Council member Greg Travis said the proposed robot brothel is “not a good business for our city. We are not sin city.”
“It’s my prerogative to think it’s gross,” said council member Greg Travis. “We’re not getting into your bedroom.”
The company, Kinkysdolls, didn’t immediately return emails seeking comment Wednesday.
The company has previously opened such a business in Toronto.
City leaders said they are not trying to legislate morality with the updated ordinance.
The ordinance does not stop the sale of the robots, it just stops the use of them for sex in public, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
“We want businesses to come. But then they’re some that we say, ‘You know it’s fine if you go someplace else,'” said Turner, who has been part of a chorus of local leaders and community groups that have pushed back against the robot brothel, which would have been the first such business in the U.S.
Elijah Rising, a Houston-based nonprofit focused on ending sex trafficking, has started a Change.org petition asking that the business be kept out of the city. The petition has received more than 13,500 signatures.
The city ordinance that was updated deals with the regulation of adult arcades and adult mini-theatres in Houston and classifies a robot as an arcade device.
Turner said the change in the ordinance was not targeted at any one particular business but targeted “at this type of behavior than any business of this kind would engage in.”
Houston has long had a culture that’s resistant to regulation and remains the only major U.S. city without zoning. Turner has said that this lack of zoning might have been one of the reasons why the owners of the robot brothel thought to try to open it in Houston.
Construction of the site for the proposed robot brothel had already begun but was stopped after city inspectors visited the location and determined the business owners didn’t have the proper permits, Houston’s public works department said last week.
It was not immediately known if the business had obtained additional permits or had resumed construction.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)