When PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel takes the stage at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday night, he will make history: For the first time, a speaker at a Republican national convention will announce that he is proud to be gay, according to a person familiar with his remarks.
Thiel, who supports gay marriage, plans to say that although he does not agree with all the policies in the official GOP platform, he believes fighting over cultural issues such as “bathroom bills” is a distraction from more important matters.
Thiel intends to make the case that the most paramount challenges facing the country center on the economy and foreign entanglements. He strongly opposes an expansionist military policy and plans to say that he agrees with Trump that the United States should avoid unnecessary wars.
The billionaire libertarian will be the first openly gay speaker at a GOP convention since 2000, when then-Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona addressed the gathering in Philadelphia, where George W. Bush was nominated for the first time. Kolbe steered clear of talking about his sexuality, however, giving brief remarks about trade. Even so, some of the delegates from Bush’s home state of Texas stood up and bowed their heads in prayer while he spoke.
Four years earlier, Stephen Fong, president of the San Francisco chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, gave a one-minute speech at the 1996 Republican convention, but he did not mention he was gay.
Thiel drew a storm of attention earlier this year when he acknowledged that he secretly financed a lawsuit against Gawker Media by wrestler Hulk Hogan. And his decision to run to be a delegate for Trump in California sent ripples through Silicon Valley, where he is a prominent investor and a board member of Facebook.
A Facebook spokesman said Thiel is attending the convention in his personal capacity, adding, "He is not attending on behalf of Facebook or to represent our views."
When he got the invitation last week to be an official speaker at the convention, Thiel decided it would be a good opportunity to explain why he is backing the real estate mogul, according to a person familiar with his thinking.
Thiel's support for Trump has not translated into contributions to his campaign or an allied super PAC. As of now, he has no plans to make such donations, according to the person familiar with his thinking.