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ATLANTA - Culture and laws have improved lives for LGBTQ+ individuals in the past two decades, yet the memorial to slain activist Matthew Shepard reminds presidential candidate Chase Oliver that more work remains.

“There is a certain heaviness in standing here now, at this memorial. 26 years ago, Matthew Shepard was brutally assaulted, tied to a fence, and left to die alone,” says Oliver, 38, who topped the field in 4 primaries and participated in the Free and Equal debate.

Oliver visited Laramie, Wyoming, on Saturday, March 23, to commemorate the life of Matthew Wayne Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming. 

On Oct. 7, 1998, two men abducted the 21-year-old openly gay man and drove him to a remote area outside of Laramie. The men tied him to a fence, beat him with the butt of a pistol, and left him in the night’s cold. A bicyclist found him 18 hours later. Shepard died Oct. 12 in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“Looking back 26 years, much has changed for the better. We have achieved so much for the freedom of LGBTQ+ people, not only in Wyoming but across the nation,” Oliver says. “All of this was possible because we have been stirred and reminded time and again, not to look at people like Matthew Shepard as the “other” from a collective group, but as a person full of potential and unique personality.”

"Celebrating accomplishments should not deter us from what remains to be done," he adds. 

“The anti-individual mindset persists in our country. No matter which side of the aisle you stand on, there is a great “they” somewhere to oppose."

“The faces keep changing in Washington, but the song remains the same: Wear your team colors, stay loyal, and maintain the status quo. The status quo sucks,” Oliver says. “It’s well past time to give up these childish games that cost us the lives of our brothers, sisters, family, and friends.”

Libertarians will choose the party’s standard bearer at the Libertarian National Convention in Washington DC on Memorial Day weekend.

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