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Peter Thiel Calls Transgender Bathroom Access "A Distraction" At GOP Convention

Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal who is gay, did not call on the party to change its policy goals.

Posted on July 21, 2016, at 10:18 p.m. ET

AFP / Getty Images / Jim Watson

Billionaire PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, one of the first openly gay speakers at a Republican convention, rebuked one of the party's goals Thursday night: banning transgender people from restrooms that match their gender identity.

"When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union," said Thiel, praising US technological innovations. "And we won."

"Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom," he continued. "This is a distraction from our real problems."

"Who cares?" he asked a cheering crowd.

The Republican Party's 2016 platform opposes the rights of transgender students to use school facilities that match their gender identity, calling that an "ideology alien to America’s history and traditions." Republicans in numerous state legislatures have advanced bills to ban transgender people from certain restrooms.

A supporter of marriage equality, Thiel told the crowd, "I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all, I am proud to be an American."

His pronouncement prompted delegates in the Quicken Loans Arena burst into a chant: "USA! USA! USA!"

But Thiel — who asked voters to support Donald Trump — did not call on the Republican Party or Trump to reform their stance on LGBT issues. His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, holds numerous anti-LGBT policy positions — including opposing the Supreme Court decision that allowed same-sex couples to marry.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.