Tech investor Thiel to GOP convention: Bathroom bills are a ‘distraction’

Gay tech investor Peter Thiel told delegates at the Republican National Convention Thursday that “bathroom bills” aimed at transgender Americans were a “distraction.”

The bills require transgender people to use the bathrooms designated for the sex they were assigned at birth, not the gender with which they identify.

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“When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won,” he said. “Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems.”

“Who cares?" he asked, to a mostly enthusiastic reaction in the arena.

It was part of a larger rebuke of a Republican Party that has spent decades waging culture wars against progressives.

“I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform,” he said. “But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.”

Thielalso became the first person to speak about being proudly gay at a Republican convention. 

“I am proud to be gay,” he said. “I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American.”

The last openly gay person to speak at the GOP gathering was for Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) in 2000.

Largely, though, his speech acted as an endorsement of Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis MORE. Thiel, one of the only people in the tech world to back Trump, said he supported the candidate because of economic views and his positions on keeping America out of foreign wars.

“Tonight I urge all of my fellow Americans to stand up and vote for Donald Trump,” he said.

Thiel made his name as a founder of PayPal and has since become an investor in several prominent companies. He was among the first outside investors in Facebook, then a fledgling social network.

Thiel is one of Silicon Valley’s most outspoken conservatives. He has donated to both insurgent politicians, like former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), and establishment candidates. He has also backed a project to establish a libertarian society at sea and is funding a lawsuit meant to take down Gawker Media, which was the first to write about his sexuality.