Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel created history Thursday by becoming the first gay man to address his sexuality on the stage of the Republican National Convention as he endorsed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Cleveland, Ohio.
“Every American has a unique identity. I am proud to be gay,” the German-born entrepreneur told the audience at the Quicken Loans Arena. “I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American.”
He was met with a rising applause as he encouraged the crowd to come out and support the Republican nominee in the November elections, saying: “I am not a politician, but neither is Donald Trump. He is a builder and it is time to rebuild America.”
Thiel, 48, urged the GOP to not get distracted by culture wars when it came to addressing the more pressing issues like the economy. “This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?” he said. “I don’t pretend to agree with every plank of our party platform.”
“Instead of going to Mars, we invaded the Middle East,” said the libertarian. “It’s time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country.”
Thiel’s speech got support from some members in the audience while others had a more cautious stand. CNN quoted Juliana Bergeron, a New Hampshire delegate, as saying: “It shows that we’re all different — and it shouldn’t matter.”
Arto Leino, another New Hampshire delegate, when asked about Thiel mentioning his sexuality, simply said, “That’s the way it is.”
The Republican platform has had a history of not addressing gay rights or LGBTQ issues comprehensively. Despite efforts from activists to reform the party’s views on the issues, the 2016 platform still includes opposition to marriage equality.
Republicans are also open with their support for North Carolina’s anti-transgender bathroom law, and for anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy, but remain silent on approval for same-sex parents.
Previously, Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona was the last gay speaker at a Republican convention when he took the stage in 2000. However, he did not address his sexuality in his speech.