Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel said on stage at the Republican National Convention tonight that he is "proud to be gay, proud to be a Republican, but most of all, proud to be an American." He was the first openly gay speaker at the RNC to speak about his sexuality.
In his speech pledging support for Donald Trump, Thiel also referred to North Carolina's controversial transgender bathroom law, asking the audience, "Who cares?"
"Fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline."
"Fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline," he said.
Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and board member at Facebook, made several economic points during his speech as well, gesturing to Silicon Valley's success compared to other parts of the country. He told the assembled convention that "Silicon Valley is a small place," as he pointed to other parts of the United States without similar privileges.
Saying "government is broken," Thiel told the audience that "we don’t accept such incompetence in Silicon Valley, and we must not accept it from our government."
CNN reported earlier in the day that Thiel would announce he was proud to be gay during his speech. Thiel was the first openly gay speaker to speak at the RNC since 2000, when then-Representative Jim Kolbe spoke, CNN pointed out, although Kolbe did not reference his sexuality during his speech.
Trump spoke out against North Carolina's transgender bathroom law in April, but walked back his comments afterward. The law requires people in the state to use public bathrooms based on the gender given to them at birth. Trump has been relatively accepting on gay rights, at least compared to many of his Republican party colleagues, although he's stopped short of supporting gay marriage.
Thiel is an outlier in the Valley
As a Trump supporter, Thiel is a major outlier in Silicon Valley, which has outspokenly, and overwhelmingly, rejected Trump's politics. (Earlier in the campaign cycle, Thiel gave money to other Republican primary candidates.) His libertarian ideals found their ultimate incarnation in a plan to build an island utopia unfettered by government regulation. Thiel drew criticism in May when it was revealed that he had silently funded a legal war against Gawker, which had written stories critical of him.
Trump is expected to make his speech accepting the party's nomination later tonight.