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HomeGADGETSELECTRONICSSen. Dallas Harris is a martial arts master who co-founded Nevada’s LGBTQ+...

Sen. Dallas Harris is a martial arts master who co-founded Nevada’s LGBTQ+ caucus

Nevada State Sen. Dallas Harris (D), 38, represents District 11 in Clark County and parts of Las Vegas.

She serves as chief majority whip in the Nevada State Senate and is one of only four out LGBTQ+ lawmakers in the legislature. She was appointed to the seat in 2018 and won a four-year term in 2020. She’s running for reelection in 2024.

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Harris is a Las Vegas native and earned her JD at George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. in 2005. As an attorney with Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission for several years, Harris gained experience under the hood with state government. As well, she’s a pro-bono attorney with the Adult Guardianship Project at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. 

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Harris spoke with me from her district office in Las Vegas, in a mall southwest of the Strip. She was dressed casually in a grey crew neck sweater, where long dreads — new for Harris after years of short hair — rested around her shoulders.

LGBTQ Nation: Last May, you and another lawmaker founded the Nevada Legislature LGBTQ+ Caucus. What are three bills that you want to either see get passed or make sure they never see the light of day?

Dallas Harris: Yes. Okay, let’s start with “never see the light of day” because I think there are too many to count across the country right now in that category. So in Douglas County, that’s a county here in Nevada that’s a bit more conservative than, let’s say, some of our more populous counties, we’ve seen some attempts to limit the sports that children can play, as little as elementary school. Those are things that I want to make sure we do not see here in Nevada on a statewide level. Let’s just be like the anti-Florida. That would be great.

As far as things that I want to see get done, one thing we did last year that was awesome — but the governor, for some reason, vetoed it — was we had a bill that would take away the gun rights of folks who had committed violent hate crimes. So, you were already convicted of a violent crime, demonstrating some bias against someone, and we’re saying, we’re going to take your guns away. We’d have a cooling off period. And the governor vetoed it, so we’re gonna bring that back.

That’s Republican governor Joe Lombardo. What was his reasoning?

We can speculate. Politics, virtue signaling to his base. I think that he cares more about that than us.

What is a biennium, and had you ever heard that word before you joined the Nevada legislature?

(laughing) It is the two-year period of the Nevada legislative session, and no, why would anybody use that term?

One of your legislative priorities is education, and you’ve been instrumental in increasing funding for K-12 students in Nevada. Who has been the more formidable opponent, Republican lawmakers or parents’ rights groups?

Ooooh. Republican lawmakers, for sure. They’re the gatekeepers, right? They are the ones that have the right to vote up or down, any way they want, regardless of what I or a parents’ rights group pushes them to do. They’re the ultimate hurdle. At the end of the day, the buck stops with them for sure.

Do you think groups like Moms for Liberty or Libs of TikTok have had any influence on them?

I think they’ve done immeasurable amounts of damage to children across the country who are just discovering themselves and are now growing up in environments that could have been welcoming and open but instead are now very much closed and dark and look just like that metaphorical closet that we talked about coming out of.

You’ve talked about your interest in tech policy. The Consumer Electronics Show happens every year in Vegas in January. Did you attend this year and what’s one technology or product you were impressed by or a trend we should look out for?

I could not make time for it this year. But I’m continually impressed with the innovation that’s happening. Technology grows at an exponential rate, right? Not at a linear one. And so, next year, we’re gonna see things that we couldn’t even envision, and it just keeps getting better.

What do you think about AI?

It’s great. I mean, that’s moving, like I said, exponentially quickly. Let’s see where it settles. I think there’s good uses for it and bad uses for it, but that’s the case with just about everything. But it has the potential to do a lot.

How did you meet your wife, who is she, and who proposed to whom?

Okay, so we met at a, like a barbecue party of mutual friends of ours. I was 19 at the time, so we’ve known each other forever. She knew me when I had zero degrees, I like to say. I’ve got four now. I was like a punk kid, I’d just started college. And so, around 2017, we decided to actually date and give that a shot. We got married in 2019.

Who proposed to whom?

Technically, she proposed to me first with a ring pop in our kitchen, because she refused to wait for me to do it. But then I did a proper proposal at the HRC gala in 2019. And then we were married in August.

Cheering on the Rebels at the UNLV football game tonight! 🏈 Nothing beats the energy and passion of this crowd. Go Rebels! #UNLVFootball #RebelPride pic.twitter.com/avMsuNSKiz

— Senator Dallas Harris (@DallasHarrisNV)

October 22, 2023

Was there some expectation that you were supposed to be the one to propose?

No, but I had, like, called her dad and asked for permission (laughing). We’d kind of fallen into, sadly, those kinds of like heteronormative roles, I guess, right?

That one is pretty romantic.

It’s kinda cool, though, that we both had a chance to pop the question.

What else can you share about her?

Her name is Summer Thomas-Harris, and we’ve got a 12-year-old and a two-year-old that we raised together. She is a social worker, she got her master’s degree in social work from UNLV [Univeristy of Nevada, Las Vegas], and she’s just fantastic. She’s a firebrand.

You are on the Senate Growth and Infrastructure Committee. From your seat there, what is the single most important thing the world should do to address climate change? Just one thing.

Care. I feel like it’s kind of cheating, but if people cared more, other things would happen, right? That would spur all of the other things, all the actual actions that need to be done. If I could get people to do anything, it would be to care — to look up. Like, the movie, right? So look up. Yeah, I would get people to look up.

As well as the LGBTQ+ caucus, you’re also a member of the Black Legislative Caucus. Who parties harder?

Oh, oh. I would have to say the Black Caucus probably parties harder, together. The LGBTQ caucus probably parties harder as individuals.

You’re an athlete and a big sports fan, and there are a lot of shout-outs to teams and pics of you and your wife at games on social. What are your favorite sports to play and your favorite teams to watch, ranked?

Right okay, sports to play: definitely, tennis is number one. I am a big, big tennis player. And basketball is number two.

Sports to watch: on TV, same order, tennis, basketball, football, maybe number three. Hockey’s on the list. Maybe hockey number three, we’ll put football number four.

Now, to watch in person. Man, I really love to go to the WNBA games. You know, like being at a Las Vegas Aces game, there’s just nothing like it. So, I gotta put that experience at the top. Love going to tennis tournaments in person. That’s also a lot of fun. Baseball is probably at the bottom on both TV and in person. For some reason, that puts me to sleep.

Where were you for the Super Bowl?

At home, watching from the safety of my couch.

You are a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo. Who would you rather meet in the Octagon? Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley or disgraced former Congressman George Santos?

Oh, hmmm. Haley. I think she’d put up more of a fight, be more of a challenge. Santos might tap out, you know, within seconds (laughing).

Maybe contrary to your sports addiction, you studied theatre at the Las Vegas Academy. What’s your favorite Broadway musical and why?

Rent. And that just may be a function of my age, the time in which I grew up. But Rent was huge, and my mom took me to see it live here in Las Vegas. I saw it when I went to New York on Broadway, and Joey Fatone was in it, you know, just shortly after NSYNC disbanded. And so lots of fond memories of that. I could probably do the whole thing out loud at any moment if I needed to.

Take a tiny pause from your doom scrolling to meet my little ray of sunshine who’s here to remind you that there’s still plenty of sweetness and light in the world! 🌟 #CutenessOverload #SmileBreak pic.twitter.com/S7BO9jGNzV

— Senator Dallas Harris (@DallasHarrisNV)

December 6, 2023

I was looking at a calendar of upcoming Las Vegas concerts so I could ask you about what you’d like to see, which I’ll do.

Okay.

But not before adding that it was maybe the whitest list of musicians anyone could ever come up with: Donny Osmond, Carrie Underwood, Barry Manilow, Wayne Newton, Miranda Lambert, Chicago, Bret Michaels, 311. I mean, there was literally not one Black act or artist upcoming and there were only, like two B-list Latino comedians.

Are Black people and the people who admire them just not into Vegas anymore, or did none of these hotels see Usher at the Superbowl?

Well, you know, Usher just actually finished a residency here in Las Vegas, so we had him for a decent amount of time. Maybe we’ll chalk it up to some of those African American artists are just too big to play in Las Vegas at the moment, right? We can’t hold Beyonce at a residency. I’m just kidding, we could. It’s Las Vegas. Beyonce is not ready to do a residency, but we’ll take her when she’s ready.

SZA’s coming off winning some Grammys, you know, if she wants to do a residency, I’d love to see her, too, but she’s at the peak of her career. So it’d be great to come on down and do a residency or come do a concert. We got space for them all.

There were three more artists that I didn’t mention with upcoming concert dates. And they’re all gay icons. You get two tickets to see either Madonna, Adele, or Christina Aguilera. Who do you choose?

Oh, oh, oh. Adele. I think Adele. It would be between Adele and Madonna.

By the way, on March 1, all three of those performers are going to be on stage in Vegas all at the same time. So I don’t know what’s going to happen. There could be like, a tear in the space-time continuum. Or a black hole or I don’t know what.

A break in the sound barrier.

Either/or: Frank Sinatra or Sammy Davis?Sammy Davis.

ARIA Hotel or Fontainebleau Hotel?

I haven’t been to the Fontainebleau yet. So I’ll say Fontainebleau, but only because I wanna give it a chance.

Wicked Spoon Buffet at the Cosmopolitan or Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars?

Wicked Spoon.

The New York, New York roller coaster or Stratosphere roller coaster?

Stratosphere.

Blackjack or craps?

DH: Blackjack.

Red or black?

Red.

What’s the best part of your job as state senator for Nevada’s 11th district?

Talking to people. I think a legislator, our job is to solve problems. And so I enjoy listening to people and the issues they’re having, and trying to figure out ways that we can solve them. Like, people can come and complain to me all day long. I want to hear it, and I want to be able to hash out solutions to their problems that the government can provide. The government isn’t always the answer, but sometimes just being there to listen is helpful. Even that’s a solution.

 

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