Peter Thiel encouraged the GOP to not get distracted by culture wars on stage Thursday night, saluting Donald Trump for not focusing on such things as he made history.
The tech billionaire declared to the Republican National Convention that he is “proud to be gay,” becoming the first speaker in the party’s history to do so from the stage of the Republican National Convention.
“Every American has a unique identity. I am proud to be gay,” he said to applause, including from the Trump family. “I am proud to be a Republican, but most of all I am proud to be an American.”
He warned the party against fighting on social issues and encouraged Republicans to let transgender people use whichever bathroom they want to use.
“This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?” Thiel said. “I don’t pretend to agree with every plank of our party platform.”
Juliana Bergerom, a New Hampshire delegate, said she was happy to have a gay person take the stage at the Republican National Convention.
“It shows that we’re all different – and it shouldn’t matter,” she said.
Another New Hampshire delegate, sitting next to Bergerom, had a more muted response.
“That’s the way it is,” Arto Leino responded, when asked to react to Thiel speaking about being gay.
But otherwise, he liked Thiel’s speech: “I thought that he spoke very well.”
The remarks came in the context of a call to focus on the economy and on an anti-war foreign policy. Thiel explained his support for Trump – making his libertarian leanings clear and arguing that Trump is the best choice on those issues.
“Instead of going to Mars, we invaded the Middle East,” said Thiel, a major donor to libertarian causes. “It’s time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country.”
Thiel’s direct comments to the Republican Party over its refusal to moderate its position on same-sex marriage, transgender rights and more came in a high-profile speaking slot:
Thiel’s speaking slot was alongside other Trump friends who are wealthy businessmen or have climbed the ranks in his companies. Tom Barrack, a long-time Trump friend, real estate investor and head of the investment firm Colony Capital, spoke after Thiel.
Thiel became the first openly gay speaker at a Republican convention since then-Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Arizona, in 2000. But Kolbe didn’t address his sexuality in his remarks.
CNN’s MJ Lee and Laurie Segall contributed to this report.