Silicon Valley entrepreneur and hedge fund titan Peter Thiel, a delegate for Donald Trump from California, drew applause, cheers and many delegates giving a standing ovation as he declared from the stage at the Quicken Loans Arena, “I’m proud to be gay.”
“I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American,” Thiel said.
Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, was not the first openly gay man to address a GOP convention. Rep. James Kolbe (R-Arizona), who is openly gay, spoke in 2000 but did not make reference to his sexual orientation. A official from Log Cabin Republicans, an organization that works within the Republican party to advocate for LGBT rights, addressed the 1996 convention.
But Thiel openly acknowledges that he is gay, and the response to his speech was viewed as progress among some of the Log Cabin Republicans at the convention, even though the GOP platform continues to include opposition to same-sex marriage.
Thiel’s speech didn’t concentrate on LGBT rights, but on his support for Trump.
Still, he did remark on the issue of transgender access to bathrooms.
“When I was a kid the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union,” he said. “And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?”
Thiel secretly helped bankroll Hulk Hogan’s litigation against Gawker Media, after the audacious news outlet published a story outing him. He recently told the New York Times that he funded the litigation because he was concerned about the site’s ethics in pursuing stories that were “very painful and paralyzing for people who were targeted.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign quickly sent out a release noting statements Trump and Pence opposing marriage equality. Four years ago, another GOP LGBT group, GOPProud, had a presence at the convention and even staged an event called Homocon. Since then, one of the group’s founders, Jimmy LaSalvia, quit the GOP and has endorsed Clinton.
Thiel’s speech also included attacks on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, noting that her support for intervention into Libya. Instead, Thiel spoke against foreign intervention, itself a diversion from past establishment GOP rhetoric.
“Instead of going to Mars, we have invaded the Middle East,” he said.
He added, “Donald Trump is right. It is time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country.”