It was an odd moment in Republican National Convention history: The nominee of the nation’s most conservative party thanked the arena filled with the GOP faithful for “cheering for what I just had to say.”
(Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech Thursday. Photo: Michael Key/Washington Blade)
Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump had just said that, “Only weeks ago, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist – this targeting the LGBTQ community. No good, and we’re gonna stop it.”
“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful, foreign ideology – believe me,” said Trump.
A few in the audience at Quicken Arena in Cleveland had begun to applaud after he said “oppression” but, after he specified “foreign ideology,” the larger crowd roared.
Departing from the text of his nomination acceptance speech Thursday night – at least a draft of the speech that was leaked late Thursday afternoon – Trump then added, “And I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just had to say. Thank you.”
Having a Republican nominee describe LGBT people as “wonderful Americans” and promise to protect them from foreign hatred and oppression is new for the GOP, and many LGBT Republicans were ecstatic.
“This night keeps getting better!! DJT recognizes LGBTQ community re: Orlando and thanks the convention for supporting him on that issue and our community!” said gay Trump delegate Charles T. Moran, former president of the California chapter of Log Cabin Republicans.
“Incredible,” said Gregory Angelo, president of the national Log Cabin Republicans group, Friday morning, when asked how he felt about the convention.
Angelo said Trump’s remarks Thursday night were the first time in any political party that a nominee “explicitly referenced the LGBTQ community.”
While acknowledging that the party platform is the most anti-LGBT in history, Angelo said the platform is “not the GOP I know and the convention in many ways proved that.”
He noted, among other things, that right-wing Republican presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz said, in his speech Wednesday night, “Whether you are gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience.”
PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel was given a prime-time slot on Thursday night’s dais and acknowledged being gay. Others speakers, signaling support for LGBT people included former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Eric Trump Foundation Vice President Lynne Patton, and a minister delivering Thursday’s invocation.
“I am proud to be gay, I am proud to be a Republican, but most of all, I am proud to be an American,” Thiel said during his remarks, drawing big applause.
Thiel referenced anti-gay laws such as North Carolina’s HB 2 that requires trans people to use public restrooms that correspond with their gender assigned at birth. Now, said Thiel, the debate is about “who gets to use which bathroom. Who cares?”
But mostly, Thiel stuck to economic themes and the tech industry, although he noted that he doesn’t agree with every plank in the party’s platform, a nod to its anti-LGBT positions on conversion therapy and marriage.
He also gave a full-throated endorsement to Trump.
“Stand up and vote for Donald Trump,” Thiel said.
Angelo said that he has long maintained Trump being gay-friendly.
“I’ve said time and again since August of last year that, if Donald Trump were to become the Republican nominee, he would be the most pro-gay nominee. What we saw, not only last night but throughout the GOP convention, was absolutely crescendo affirming that fact,” said Angelo.
Angelo said Log Cabin has made a request to meet with the campaign and hasn’t heard back yet. The group will not make an endorsement until that happens, he said.
A news release from LGBTrump, a group organized by gay conservative Chris Barron, said more than 500 people attended its event Tuesday night.
“We could not be any happier with how this event went,” said Barron. “We set out to hold an event that would both highlight the threat that radical Islam poses to LGBT Americans and show that there are lots of gay people and gay-friendly people supporting Donald Trump. It is clear that we succeeded by any metric.”
Not everyone was happy.
The Human Rights Campaign sent out a news release following Thursday night’s address, calling Trump’s expression of support for the LGBT community “appallingly feigned.” And social media postings from others criticized Thiel for dismissing the controversy over transgender use of bathrooms as “a distraction from our real problems – who cares?”
The Democratic National Convention opens Monday in Philadelphia.
– reported by Lisa Keen