Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel made history as the first openly gay speaker in the history of the Republican National Convention to urge the party to drop its opposition to LGBT rights – a move that may fall on deaf ears for some conservatives within his party, but underscores an election season that has been anything but traditional.
"I am proud to be gay," Thiel told the crowd. "I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all, I am proud to be an American."
He urged the Republican party to stop worrying about gender-neutral bathrooms and focus on real issues, calling the debacle "a distraction" from topics such as the economy and job growth.
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Thiel went against a majority of Silicon Valley in supporting Donald Trump, although he’s never been a stranger to controversy before: He once advocated for an autonomous island without government regulation of business, and has also suggested that giving women the vote may have damaged capitalist democracy.
Despite his past comments, however, some tech insiders have said that Thiel’s connections to the real estate mogul may be beneficial to Silicon Valley – an area that has largely stood opposed to Trump’s positions on immigration and his proposed boycott of Apple products, and has drew the candidate’s ire from time to time.
“If anything, it’s actually really good for Silicon Valley Republicans because so few of them have any sort of direct-like communication with the Trump campaign at all,” said Mason Harrison, who spoke to NBC Bay Area from the convention via Skype.
Many on social media have said that Thiel’s support for Trump – and now his support for vice presidential pick Mike Pence – is counterintuitive.
“I think it’s great that he’s speaking out to the RNC, but I just wonder how effective the message is going to be and how receptive they’re going to be receiving that message.”
Others voiced concern that the speech would be little more than an exercise in futility.
“Republicans are not backing gay," said John Belson, of San Francisco. “I don’t see how it’s going to do any good.”
People watching at The Last Call in the Castro said it's nothing more than political theater.
"This is the party who tried to stop us from getting married," said Cole Thomason-Redus.
"He's saying we don't care about the bathroom," Connie Champagne said of Thiel. "Why are they applauding? They are the people who vote to keep trans women out of the women's bathroom."