LGBTQ Agenda: Gay Libertarian presidential candidate says he's running 'confident, aspirational' campaign

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday August 22, 2023
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Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver was invited to speak at the Iowa State Fair Political Soapbox, the first time a third-party candidate has done so. Photo: Courtesy the candidate's website
Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver was invited to speak at the Iowa State Fair Political Soapbox, the first time a third-party candidate has done so. Photo: Courtesy the candidate's website

A gay Libertarian from Georgia is making waves in his run for his party's nomination for U.S. president — becoming the first-ever third-party candidate to speak at the Iowa State Fair Political Soapbox.

Chase Oliver, 38, spoke at the popular pre-Iowa caucus event August 19. Other speakers included Republican presidential candidates former Vice President Mike Pence and rising star Vivek Ramaswamy, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Democrat who is challenging President Joe Biden.

"I liken two party politics to professional wrestling. They pretend like they're fighting one another but what they're actually doing is putting on a performance to get you upset, get you excited, to take your money, and to take your vote for granted," Oliver said at the Soapbox. "My generation, the millennial generation, are the people who really need to start running things in this new millennium."

Oliver said that criminal justice reform of what he termed America's "over criminalized" society would help reduce HIV infections.

"What we have right now is ... a war on drugs in this country that puts thousands of people in jail instead of giving them the addiction help they actually need," Oliver said. "And there are real-world examples of what happens when we get off of the drug war model and actually get on a model that treats people with empathy. And that is actually a little nation called Portugal. ... They used to have the worst HIV rate on the continent of Europe, the worst IV drug use in Europe, they had a massive addiction problem. ... So what they did is they decriminalized all drugs in the nation of Portugal and they paired that with giving people the ability to seek addiction therapy."

While Portugal retains high HIV infection rates relative to the rest of Western Europe, they have been cut in half since the nation decriminalized drug use, and new injection drug use cases have been reduced from 518 in 2000 to just 13 in 2019, according to the Transform Drug Policy Foundation.

Before his appearance, Oliver spoke with the Bay Area Reporter, telling the paper that 2024 represents "a unique opportunity for our party to break out into the mainstream."

"We have stood for self-expression and self-ownership and autonomy since our founding in 1971 — just two years after Stonewall," Oliver said of the Libertarian Party. "It took Democrats decades to catch up because they had to wait until it was politically popular. ... If there's one thing I know about LGBTQ people it's that we like to go our own way and not be told who to be or how to live."

And Oliver might be right — enthusiasm for the lead candidates in the Democratic and Republican primary races, Biden and former President Donald Trump, respectively, is not great. A July poll in The New York Times found 64% of Democratic voters would prefer a different candidate, and an April Associated Press/University of Chicago poll found 44% of Republicans wish Trump wasn't running. If they both clinch their parties' nomination, it would be the first re-match since 1956.

Oliver hopes to cash into that discontent.

"Your vote should be earned and not taken for granted," Oliver said. "If you say 'I'm LGBTQ, I have to be a Democrat,' you're allowing people to take your vote, your voice, your activism for granted."

In 2022, Oliver was credited with forcing the U.S. Senate race in his home state of Georgia into a runoff between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker after he got over 2% of the vote. (Warnock defeated Walker, the former pro football player, in the runoff by 2.8%)

Despite the lackluster enthusiasm, Biden and Trump retain significant leads — Biden's leads challenger Kennedy 72-13%, according to an August Quinnipiac University poll (, and Trump leads Florida Governor Ron DeSantis 57-18% in the same poll. The other candidates in the Republican field are all in single digits.

And Oliver isn't the only third-party challenger, either: Cornel West, Ph.D., is challenging Biden from the left, and the No Labels movement may also offering an independent ticket, the AP reports.

Started as Obama Democrat

Oliver said he knows about having activism taken for granted; he started his political life as an Obama Democrat.

"I started out as a Democrat because I was virulently anti-war during Iraq," Oliver said. "As George W. Bush was a Republican, I became a Democrat reflexively."

Oliver grew disillusioned with then-President Barack Obama, however, regarding the expansion of the security state, the continuation of U.S. detention of foreign nationals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the expansion of international counterterrorism efforts of dubious legality under international law. Oliver called those moves a "slap in the face to the anti-war movement that helped [Obama] win both the primary against Hillary Clinton and the White House."

It was in 2010 that Oliver found the Libertarian Party — generally known for being socially permissive but fiscally conservative — at a booth it'd set up at the Atlanta Pride festival.

"The Democratic Party for too long feels like communities owe them their vote without following through," Oliver said.

(Oliver did not mention his sexual orientation during his remarks at the Soapbox, but did mention running into the Libertarian Party booth at Atlanta Pride.)

Starchild, a bisexual who is the chair of the San Francisco County Libertarian Party, said he's excited about Oliver's candidacy but non-committal at this point about supporting him.

"I don't support anyone yet at this time," Starchild, who uses only one name, said. "I could see myself supporting him. I suspect one or more higher-profile candidates will get into the race. Last time I supported Vermin Supreme, an unorthodox candidate but very LGBTQ supportive and good in other ways. ... It seems to speak well of his campaign he got into the Iowa Soapbox."

(Supreme has run for president numerous times, including in 2020.)

Other declared candidates for the Libertarian nomination at this time include Jacob Hornberger, founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation and a former independent candidate for U.S. Senate from Virginia, and Lars Mapstead, founder of FriendFinder Networks.

Hornberger told the B.A.R. on August 20 that "Chase is a great guy and I hope his talk went well."

"My position on LGBTQ issues are posted on my website, along with my positions on 22 other important issues facing our country," he continued. On Hornberger's website (, he tries to draw a middle ground.

"Republicans have a special obsessive need to condemn people for the private choices they make with respect to sexual orientation. Republicans also have a special obsessive need to monitor and control what people do within the privacy of their own homes and, especially, in their bedrooms," Hornberger states. "Democrats have a special obsessive need to control what people do with their own money and their own privately owned property. That's why they want the state to punish vendors who choose not to sell their products to people because of their sexual orientation. Private business owners have the right to sell their products to whomever they choose. It's their privately owned business, not the state's."

Mapstead stated to the B.A.R. on August 18 that "Despite more than half of all Americans supporting gay marriage by 2012, it took three more years to make it legal in this nation because of our rigged system. I'm fighting for an election system that enables the LGBT community and all other Americans to have their vote count, not to have to wait years for the Supreme Court to agree we have rights."

Starchild echoed Oliver's sentiments about the two-party system, criticizing the notion it's wasting a vote to cast a ballot for a third-party candidate.

"Little by little, we'll see cracks in the facade in the two-party cartel that stops the United States from having real democracy," Starchild said. "People need to keep in mind they are not determining the outcome when they vote. You have a better chance of being hit by lightning. It's more like a poll: if there's A, B, and C, then you pick C if that's what you believe in."

Queer issues

The B.A.R. asked Oliver about some of the legislative problems LGBTQ people are facing, particularly in red states. Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills have been proposed this year and dozens passed, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

On "Don't Say Gay" bills such as in Florida, Oliver said school choice — a system wherein money follows the pupil, rather than everyone paying for public education and people who want their children in private education paying for that out-of-pocket — could give parents options in states with anti-LGBTQ school policies.

"I'm somebody who wants to have inclusive education that focuses on critical thinking and age-appropriate curriculum, and I think we can certainly have that while being inclusive to LGBTQ people and families," he said. "Personally I think it's important to acknowledge LGBTQ people exist. I believe personally, in my personal opinion, that should fall under the role of education — but that's me as a person. ... As a candidate for president, ultimately parents and students should decide where to send their education dollars."

When it comes to books about LGBTQ people or with LGBTQ themes being allowed in school libraries, Oliver said that's a decision best left to the schools and parents themselves. Competition from private schools may cause public schools to reassess.

"I believe in funding students and not systems," he said. "If your education funding is by your ZIP code, in a lot of the country it's going to a failing public school system. In areas with failing schools we have to be able to bring in competition. ... It gets demonized sometimes but based on where we are with acceptance of LGBTQ people you're gonna see the vast majority of students be in environments that are welcoming to those families."

Oliver is against state mandates on whether transgender girls should be allowed to compete with cisgender girls in female athletics.

"Let kids be kids, and when it comes to more competitive athletics, let individual leagues determine that stuff, but don't let it come from the government," he said.

And in keeping with the Libertarian Party's maximal positions on the Bill of Rights, Oliver is opposed to laws targeting drag.

"Drag is an art form," he said. "It is a performance art and like any performance art it can range from completely family friendly to something quite explicit — just like cinema, music, visual arts. And that's how drag should be treated."

Oliver stated that if parents can take their kids to see "The Passion of the Christ," an R-rated film, they should be able to take their kids to see drag.

"The vast majority of parents have an unconditional love for their kid and in almost all instances are going to be protective of that kid," he said. "These laws are just a veiled measure to be anti-LGBTQ. We already have indecency and obscenity laws on the books and that's not what this is about; this is about preventing an artform people may find objectionable because it's from the 'LGBTQ catalog.'"

Oliver, who lives north of Atlanta and is single, said, "I'm the best messenger for this moment."

"We have extremely high voter dissatisfaction with the two parties," Oliver said. "I want to run with a message that's confident, aspirational and taps into Gen Z. I want to deliver that now."

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

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