Peter Thiel's 'I am proud to be gay' is a GOP convention first

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, spoke on Thursday night about his sexuality, but didn't go so far as to criticize specific parts of the platform.

Mike Segar/Reuters
Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016.

While the Republican party adopts what the Log Cabin Republicans are calling the most anti-LGBT platform in party history, some pro-LGBT Republicans are also calling Donald Trump their most supportive candidate in the GOP’s history.

The speech by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel at the GOP convention on Thursday night nods to both sides. “I am proud to be gay; I am proud to be a Republican; but most of all, I’m proud to be an American,” Mr. Thiel said during his speech.

CNN reported just before the convention speech that Thiel would “admonish the GOP on LGBT rights.” Instead, Thiel said, “I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform,” immediately following a standing ovation for declaring his pride.

His only reference to a specific policy was related to transgender rights, the debate over which he portrayed as a distraction. “When I was a kid, the great debate was how to defeat the Soviet Union, and we won,” he said. “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?”

Mr. Trump has called himself a “friend of the gay community,” but some say that his party’s platform suggests otherwise. The 2016 Republican Party Platform opposes same-sex marriage, supports "conversion therapy" that attempts to turn LGBT people into straight ones, supports laws that allow businesses and adoption agencies to refuse to serve LGBT couples, and supports laws that require transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificates. 

Even Trump himself has not been clear on where he stands. During the GOP convention, he said, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology, believe me,” he said. Those were the only words of LGBT support Trump spoke during the convention.

The New York Times wrote an article about how Donald Trump is “More Accepting on Gay Issues” on April 22. It notes, as Trump himself emphasizes, the number of gay friends Trump has, such as Elton John, whom he congratulated on his civil union in 2005. However, like Thiel, Trump has criticized transgender bathroom debates, and supports the First Amendment Defense Act, being debated in Congress, which would provide broad protection to individuals and businesses that oppose same-sex marriage.

Trump also opposes federal support for same-sex marriage. In February, he told the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody that he was in favor of letting each state decide whether to permit same-sex marriages. “I think they can trust me" said Trump of evangelical Christians. "They can trust me on traditional marriage,”

The actions of Trump’s vice presidential pick may speak more loudly than words about where he stands on gay rights. Indiana governor Mike Pence holds views on LGBT rights that are what California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, called "more extreme than any vice-presidential nominee in modern history."

Mr. Pence has played a prominent role in opposing equal rights for LGBT people. In a 2006 speech in Congress, he said that gay marriage was a signal of "societal collapse."

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