CLEVELAND (MEDIA GENERAL)—Billionaire businessman Peter Thiel is openly gay and not-so-gently inviting the Republican base to get over it.
Onstage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the PayPal founder stood before the party and millions of viewers to stress the importance of abandoning outdated social fights and focus on America’s economy.
In a political party that just over a decade ago turned issues like anti-gay, state-based constitutional amendments into a successful electoral strategy, this is a dramatic about-face.
Recently in the news for shadow-funding Hulk Hogan’s legal battle against Gawker, the website that publicly outed Thiel as a gay man in 2007 article, he is the first RNC speaker to make such a declaration from the GOP’s main stage.
Thiel’s speech carries the unmistakable imprimatur of Donald Trump, since each speaker must be cleared by the candidate personally.
The move received a markedly warmer reception at the RNC than many would have expected from a party that has exploited wedge social issues. In fact, not one delegate expressed dissatisfaction to our team of reporters.
“Why not? They have a right to talk just like anybody else,” declared Joan Vogt, delegate of New York, who knew Trump’s father decades ago.
Many others agreed, calling Thiel’s pro-gay message common sense.
“That should all be history. I think we’ve gone beyond that, we really have,” insists Arkansas delegate Linda Lucchese. Lucchese says the economy should be everyone’s number one issue, but admitted, “I don’t know why people aren’t accepting that.”
Green Bay-area delegate Jerry Murphy also supports the push for inclusivity, saying, “I, myself, as an individual Republican voter, very much support including everybody-–and by that I mean everybody has the same liberties in this country.”
Even the older generation on hand deferred to Trump on LGBT issues, noting that the electoral landscape has shifted and will continue to change.
“I can’t judge anybody. My Bible tells me that only God can judge us,” concluded Dorothy Crockett of Arkansas. “Whomever Donald Trump wants to speak, I’m one-hundred percent for, okay?”
On Wednesday evening, a Trump family employee repeatedly implored the crowd to internalize the idea that “LGBTQ lives matter”-–a far cry from sentiments voiced a few short years ago at the conservative gathering built around protecting “traditional families.”
The official 2016 GOP platform is certainly not considered gay-friendly, leading the leader of the Log Cabin Republicans to label it “the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history.”
However, that’s where Trump splits with certain influencers within the GOP, silently indicating in his keynote speaker lineup that he plans to moderate Republican positions on social issues of yesteryear.
It remains to be seen whether the party at-large will follow suit.
Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales