Politics

'Proud to be Gay' — A Different Message For The Republican Convention

Last openly gay speaker didn't mention his sexuality in 2000

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Venture capitalist Peter Thiel's message on Thursday night was a little different from what was said by the last openly gay man at a Republican National Convention.  

"I am proud to be gay," Thiel said. "I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American."  

When then-Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona spoke to the RNC in 2000, he didn't even mention his sexuality. He talked about trade.  

Still, people in the audience knew. The Texas delegation even removed their cowboy hats for a silent prayer.  

Thiel's comments Thursday, as well as those of other speakers this week, suggest that at least some Republicans have embraced more tolerant attitudes toward the LGBT community.  

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump even promised to protect LGBT Americans — at least from outside threats. 

"As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology," Trump said in his acceptance speech.

Comments by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Wednesday also referred to an overseas threat.

[ LGBT Republicans Try to Find Their Place in Cleveland ]  

"If our enemies had their way, gays, lesbians, and transgender citizens would be put to death as they are today and the Islamic State and Iran," Gingrich said.  

Gregory Angelo, president of the pro-LGBT Log Cabin Republicans,  praised Gingrich in a Tweet.

And while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz' snub of Trump on Wednesday set off a political tsunami, he also had a message for LGBT Americans.  

"Whether you are gay, or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience," Cruz said.  

Such comments came the same week that the party's platform criticized the Supreme Court's decisions that allow same-sex marriage.  And it asserted a parent's right to subject a gay child to  "conversion therapy" that is widely discredited by mental health professionals.  

"I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform," Thiel said Thursday. "But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline. And nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump."  

Still, Thiel abruptly brushed off the transgender bathroom debate. Instead, he praised Trump.  

"Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom," he said. "This is a distraction. Who cares?"  

Earlier Thursday, Rachel Hoff, who was on the platform committee and is openly gay, said small steps are to be expected.  

"That's why all the stuff I did do on platform committee," she said.  

Any kind of positive reference of the LGBT community, she said, is valuable.  

Contact Garcia at EricGarcia@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @EricMGarcia Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.