With just over a week until Election Day, tech billionaire Peter Thiel wanted to set the record straight on why he vehemently supports Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. But when asked whether he believed Trump would protect LGBT rights, namely marriage equality, Thiel—who is openly gay—seemed to dodge the question.
“I’ve not had conversations with Mr. Trump on that specific subject,” Thiel said in front a room full of reporters Monday that during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
“I do think that he represents a sea change from the Republican Party of [former President George W.] Bush 43. You just think about the way Bush 43 was speaking negatively about gay marriage at every single campaign event in the 2004 election. It’s something that Trump has indicated he would be expansive on gay rights.”
Thiel is one of a few gay tech executives**, and has been a staunch supporter of Trump despite his anti-LGBT policy positions. Thiel spoke at this year’s Republican National Convention and pledged $1.25 million to Trump’s campaign. But the tech investor’s speech and comments Monday seemed to gloss over Trump’s declaration earlier this year that he would consider appointing U.S. Supreme Court justices who wanted to overturn the Court’s 2015 decision that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry.
“If I’m elected, I would be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things,” Trump told Fox News Sunday’s host Chris Wallace in January. “I don’t like the way they ruled. I disagree with the Supreme Court from the standpoint they should have given the state — it should be a states’ rights issue.”
“One thing that should be distinguished here, is the media is always taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take him seriously but not literally.”
Wallace, who moderated the final 2016 presidential debate earlier this month, followed up by asking Trump if he would appoint justices to overrule the decision, to which the candidate said “I would strongly consider that, yes.”
Trump doubled down on those words in February when he publicly recommended two very conservative judges, William Pryor and Diane Sykes. In September, the reality TV star and failed businessman recommended 11 more potential appointees, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Lee quickly turned down the offer, but the Senator’s brother, Utah state Judge Thomas Lee, was included on an earlier list released in May.
Following the LGBT rights question, Thiel defended Trump’s derogatory remarks about banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and his plan to build a wall along the southern border as superfluous statements that shouldn’t be taken literally.
I don’t support religious tests. I wouldn’t use, I certainly don’t support the specific language Trump has used in every instance. But I think one thing that should be distinguished here, is the media is always taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of the voters who [will] vote for Trump take him seriously but not literally. And so when they hear things like the Muslim comment, or the wall [along the U.S.-Mexican border] comment, or things like that, the question is not are you going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China, or how exactly are you going to enforce these [religious] tests. What they hear is we are going to have a saner more sensible immigration policy. We’re going to try to figure out how are we going to strike the right balance between costs and benefits.
But even in following Thiel’s logic, Trump’s proposed actions do make good on his words — at least in the case of LGBT rights.
** Peter Thiel’s sexual orientation was publicly revealed without his permission in a published story by Gawker’s sister publication Valleywag in 2007.