GOP is not embracing gays, no matter what Peter Thiel says

CLEVELAND – For the first time ever at a Republican National Convention, delegates received a rebuke for their party’s retrograde stance on LGBTQ rights. Silicon Valley tech billionaire Peter Thiel, the openly gay co-founder of PayPal and friend of Trump, told those assembled, “I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all, I am proud to be an American.”

He warned them that “fake culture wars” over homosexuality distract the party from what’s important. Many television commentators were gushing over the historic nature of Thiel’s address, musing over whether it represented a shift away from the harsh anti-gay stance taken by the GOP in previous years. It’s all part of a narrative that some gay conservatives have been attempting to construct the last few days.

“Most pro-LGBT convention ever”?

Gregory Angelo, head of the gay conservative group Log Cabin Republicans, claimed Thursday, “This week, the Republican party hosted the most pro-LGBT convention in its history.” He was referring to the multiple (non-negative) references made to LGBTQ people in the speeches of such unexpected names as Ted Cruz and Newt Gingrich. Even Trump himself, in his grand finale Thursday night, said it was “no good” that the “barbarians of ISIS” and a “radical Islamic terrorist” had targeted the LGBTQ community in Orlando.

RNC 2016, gays are led to believe, proves that the Republican Party is finally welcoming them in.

Judging by the spike of ads for gay sex that have been placed on Craigslist in Cleveland this week, it’s certainly true that there a lot of gay Republicans in town. How many of those are out and proud and how many are repressed closet cases, however, is hard to know. It really doesn’t matter though.

The very fact that an openly gay man was given a primetime speaking slot to discuss homosexuality and the culture wars is of course an important milestone. No matter the political point of view expressed, you can’t take that away from Thiel and the Republicans. But when the rubber hits the road, Thiel and Angelo are really playing a spin game.

And that’s because the Republican Party just adopted its most anti-LGBTQ platform ever.

Platform takes homophobia to a new level

While Trump’s populism and his authoritarian image as a protector of the oppressed may be wooing some gays, the lip service paid to LGBTQ equality is just that. This year’s Republican plan for what they will do if they win in November is chock full of language that makes clear, in no uncertain terms, exactly what the party collectively thinks of LGBTQ Americans.

The platform includes a call to reverse marriage equality by overturning the Obergefell Supreme Court verdict. It proclaims, “Our laws and our government’s regulations should recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” LGBTQ parents too are dismissed, since supposedly only “a married mom and dad” are able to properly raise children.

Legal protections for LGBTQ people in their dealings with private companies are dismissed out of hand. The right of businesses to reject gay customers is to be preserved against “government discrimination.” The final document also comes out strongly against transgender people in opposing the redefinition of “sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories.” The states who are fighting to put in place anti-trans bathroom bills are given a strong “salute.”

Perhaps most shocking of all, conversion therapy aimed at turning people un-gay – a process that has been thoroughly discredited as ineffective and even harmful —  is given the seal of approval. Apparently homosexuality is still assumed by Republicans to be just a choice or a defect that can be repaired. Easy to forget it is 2016.

Rachel Hoff, the first openly lesbian Republican to serve on the party platform committee, was driven to contemplate resigning from the GOP after being shot down every time she proposed amendments to soften the platform’s anti-gay stances. She wasn’t even trying to get them to embrace marriage equality. All she asked was for the insertion of a line saying Republicans had different views on the issue.

It was a bridge too far. Out of 112 members, only 23 offered their support. Distraught, Hoff asked, “What future will our party have if we are so out of touch with young Americans?”

Even Log Cabin’s Angelo admitted, “It’s the most anti-LGBT platform in history.” Other conservative principles, however, are apparently still enough to keep him and other gay Republicans in line with the Trump-Pence ticket.

Mixed signals

So what gives with the GOP’s two-faced approach to gay issues at this convention? They put a gay man on stage, Trump and others give a shout out to protecting LGBTQ people, and yet the party adopts its most backward platform on this community’s issues ever. 

It is all a calculated affair. Putting Thiel up there to talk about how proud he was to be a gay Republican American was a gamble, but not an overly risky one. The Trump campaign and the GOP tested the waters for easing off gay issues, but in a way that doesn’t threaten the rest of the party’s ideology. He himself is not of the exact same ilk as the Evangelical fundamentalists who stuffed the platform full of homophobia.

Thiel is the model homosexual for a party like the GOP. He’s a white entrepreneur who subscribes to the party’s obsessions with Hillary’s emails and Benghazi. He goes even further down the far right road, though. Calling himself a libertarian, Thiel advocates monopoly industries, wants companies to be structured like monarchies, and extols the virtues of “nondemocratic government.”

It’s totally reactionary stuff – just like the rest of the GOP platform and the Trump plan for America.

Photo: Despite his “embrace” of LGBTQ people in his Cleveland Convention speech, Trump is on record against LGBTQ equality. Screenshot from a CNN interview.


C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.