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Why Is Peter Thiel a Citizen of New Zealand?

Peter Thiel

The gay billionnaire and Trump supporter may consider the island nation an escape hatch in case of political or natural disasters.

Scholars have questioned whether Peter Thiel -- by virtue of his support of President Donald Trump -- can truly call himself a member of the gay community. But the billionnaire has one identity that is not up for debate: New Zealand citizen.

The New Zealand Herald unearthed this information after the PayPal founder, whose fortune is valued at $2.6 billion, purchased an estate estimated at $10 million in 2015, the latest of several properties and investments in the island nation. Thiel also owns a company there, Second Star.

A spokesperson for the Overseas Investment Office explained to the Herald why Thiel did not need to seek permission to purchase the property, a requirement for foreigners.

"Second Star and Mr. Thiel did not need consent as he has New Zealand citizenship," the spokesperson said.

Born in Germany, Thiel moved to the United States as an infant and became a naturalized American citizen. He reportedly became a citizen of New Zealand in 2011, although there is a "wall of silence" around the issue, said Ian Lees-Galloway, an immigration spokesman for the nation's Labour Party. Residency is usually a requirement of obtaining citizenship, and critics have questioned whether Thiel's wealth gave him an exemption.

The New Yorker reported that New Zealand is part of a "backup plan," embraced by Thiel and other Silicon Valley leaders, in the event of a nuclear attack, flu pandemic, or other natural and political disasters. In the article, an interview with entrepreneur Steve Altman, Thiel described why Altman planned to come to his foreign residence should an end-of-days scenario occur.

"Sam is not particularly religious, but he is culturally very Jewish -- an optimist yet a survivalist, with a sense that things can always go deeply wrong, and that there's no single place in the world where you're deeply at home."

Thiel did not immediately respond to The Advocate for comment.

Thiel's New Zealand citizenship comes to light in the wake of the inauguration of Trump, who stressed an "America First" policy in his address that called for a closing of borders. One of these borders, a physical wall on the Mexican border, is already being planned for construction, the U.S. president confirmed Wednesday.

The majority of Americans do not have faith in Trump's ability to handle an international crisis or use military force wisely, reports a recent Gallup poll. The president's vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the disappearance of health initiatives like the National HIV/AIDS Strategy from WhiteHouse.gov have unnerved activists concerned with pandemic disease. Most people do not have an escape hatch in case of tragedy.

Last year, Thiel gave a $1.25 million contribution to Trump's presidential campaign, becoming the most high-profile figure from Silicon Valley to endorse the Republican politician. He also was one of the few out gay men ever to speak at a Republican National Convention.

However, in a commentary for The Advocate, Jim Downs asserted that this address was not the progress many conservatives hailed it as. In fact, after tracing the meaning and historical significance of gay identity, Downs argued that Thiel, whose political views and interests do not align with the majority of the LGBT community, may not be gay at all.

"By the logic of gay liberation, Thiel is an example of a man who has sex with other men, but not a gay man. Because he does not embrace the struggle of people to embrace their distinctive identity," the history professor said. Thiel later called this opinion an example of the LGBT community's "intolerance."

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