Update: Donald Trump mentioned LGBTQ rights in his acceptance speech, though he tripped up the letters somewhat. He applauded the audience for applauding at that line:
Just about every night this week, at least one Republican speaker has mentioned gay rights in his or her speech. Most recently it was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), one of the most socially conservative politicians on the scene right now, who on Wednesday said this:
On Monday it was former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has said in years past that the Republican Party should "get the heck out of people's bedrooms" and on Monday acknowledged law enforcement of "every sexual orientation."
On Wednesday it was former House speaker Newt Gingrich:
Also on Wednesday, the vice president for the Eric Trump Foundation, Lynne Patton, said this:
To cap it all off, on Thursday PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel plans to make history as the first GOP convention speaker to announce he is proud to be gay.
We have more questions than answers about why gay rights is a recurring theme on stage in Cleveland this week. Is this a way to try to counter GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's unpopularity among minority groups? Are Republicans trying to expand their base after the Orlando shooting, which targeted the LGBT community? Is this another signal that cultural views about gay rights are shifting in conservative circles? Does this even resonate with an LGBT community that has spent the past year batting down Republican-led policies like a game of whack-a-mole?
The talk on stage is especially notable following a year when the front lines of America's culture wars were found in North Carolina bathrooms, Indiana pizza shops, Colorado bakeries and Mississippi hospitals. With a few notable exceptions, the right and the left are on opposite sides of this battle.
According to a Washington Post analysis, Democrats in Congress were 10 times as likely as Republicans to mention "LGBT" in their statements after the Orlando massacre in a gay nightclub last month. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives adjourned without voting on a resolution recognizing the victims and condemning the violence.
Given all that, several LGBT activists we surveyed seemed skeptical that brief nods to their community mean much: Republicans' words don't match their actions, they say.
"Many of the speakers who mentioned LGBTQ people have built their political careers leading anti-LGBTQ campaigns and belittling our lives," Human Rights Campaign communications director Jay Brown said in a statement to The Fix.
A few days earlier, the Human Rights Campaign -- the leading LGBT activist group -- sent out a memo calling the GOP's platform on gay rights "abhorrent." The platform is one of the most conservative in modern history on gay rights, opposing same-sex marriage and supporting the idea of conversion therapy and states' abilities to restrict bathrooms and locker rooms to people's birth genders.
And not every speaker at the convention was eager to talk about gay rights in the context of promoting it. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn criticized President Obama for spending time fighting about open bathrooms rather than the Islamic State:
"War is not about bathrooms." --Fmr Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
— Rebecca Sinderbrand (@sinderbrand) July 19, 2016
A look at public opinion polling helps us understand why the Republicans who write the rules aren't embracing gay rights: Their party isn't there yet. An April 2015 Washington Post-ABC News poll found only 34 percent of Republicans supported allowing gay and lesbians to marry legally, while 76 percent of Democrats were on board with it.
And the average Republican delegate may not even have gay rights on the radar:
— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) July 21, 2016
But some notable GOP figures have been putting pressure on the party to change its tone. Speaking in Cleveland this week, Caitlyn Jenner nodded to that rift when she said it was harder to come out as Republican than as transgender. "I have to admit I've been very disappointed over the last five, 10 years, but I won't give up hope on it," the Olympic gold medalist said.
So is it at least progress to hear "LGBTQ lives matter" on stage at a Republican convention? I asked Bob Witeck, a Washington-based LGBT activist.
"Yes, of a kind," he said. He said he feels like some Republicans sense an opening to reach out to the gay community since the Orlando terrorist attack: "It's like, 'By the way, you should join with us, because we hate your adversaries, we hate the Islamic terrorists who hate gay people.'"
But if Republicans are trying to win over the gay community voting bloc, they've got work to do. In the 2o12 presidential election, exit polls showed that 76 percent of people who defined themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual voted for Obama, while 22 percent voted for Republican Mitt Romney.
In May, Gallup reported 54 percent of LGBT voters were favorable of Democrat Hillary Clinton, while only 18 percent were favorable of Trump.
To the extent the Republican Party is trying to start a conversation with the LGBT community, some seem at least willing to hear them out. On Thursday night, a TV ad featuring a transgender woman will air on Fox News during the convention, paid for by a coalition of LGBT activists. (It will run during the Democratic convention, too.)
But Witeck cautions that any step toward unity is roadblocked by the fact that Trump chose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate -- a Republican politician who, for many gay rights activists, is the face of anti-LGBT rights.
It's unclear where the conversation heads from here, after a week of mixed messages in Cleveland.