Nathan Mathis – Photo: Vaughn Hillyard/NBC News, via Twitter.
An Alabama farmer who feels guilt that his past homophobic attitudes may have contributed to his daughter’s suicide is protesting Roy Moore’s homophobic attitudes.
Nathan Mathis appeared outside a rally in Midland City, Ala., for the former Alabama Supreme Court Justice, who is running against Democrat Doug Jones in Tuesday’s special U.S. Senate election in Alabama.
Holding up a picture of his daughter, Patti Sue, in her basketball uniform, Mathis, a peanut farmer from Wicksburg, Ala., stood and talked to reporters in an exchange posted to Twitter by NBC News reporter Vaughn Hillyard.
In the interview, Mathis took issue with Moore’s past statements referring to LGBTQ people as perverts.
During his two terms on the state’s highest court, Moore has established a national reputation for opposing all forms of LGBTQ rights, including an attempt to force probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing marriage equality.
“My daughter was Patti Sue Mathis. That’s her right there,” Mathis told reporters. “Judge Roy Moore called her a pervert for one reason — because she was gay. If he called her a pervert, he’d call your child a pervert if she was gay. Or your son was gay.
“This is something people need to stop and think about. He’s supposed to uphold the constitution. The constitution says all men are created equal. Well, how’s my daughter a pervert just because she’s gay? Does it mean she was born gay? I don’t know the answer to that. But she was gay.”
When reporters asked Mathis what he hoped to accomplish with his presence at the Jones rally, he said he didn’t know.
“I had mixed emotions about coming. But somebody needs to speak up. And if it’s all to no avail, so be it. It won’t be the first time I’ve done something to no avail, OK. But my sign there speaks for itself and my sign is truth.”
A reporter asked Mathis if his daughter’s suicide was because of the Senate candidate’s comments. Mathis says that while Moore didn’t talk about his daughter explicitly, her decision to take her life was motivated by comments like his.
Mathis also admits that, he, too, held anti-gay attitudes that may have contributed to his daughter’s despair.
“I was anti-gay myself. I said bad things to my daughter myself, which I regret. But I can’t take back what happened to my daughter. But stuff like saying my daughter’s a pervert? Sure, that bothered her. Now, you know, Judge Moore, not just said my daughter — he didn’t call my daughter by name. He said all gay people are perverts; abominations. That’s not true! We don’t need a person like that representing us in Washington. That’s why I’m here.”
Mathis previously wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the Dothan Eagle in 2012 decrying politicians who campaign using anti-gay rhetoric. In the letter, he recounts his shame and regret over how he treated his daughter, and the story of how she struggled with her sexuality, even attempting to undergo conversion therapy, before taking her life.
“On March 22, 1995, Patti took her own life because she didn’t want to be gay anymore. She was tired of being ridiculed and made fun of. She was tired of seeing how a lot of people treat gay people,” Mathis wrote.
“Sometime after Patti died, I attended church and a visiting preacher was preaching. About 10 minutes into the sermon, he bashed gays the rest of the way. As soon as the invitation song was given, I went out the door with one of the worst headaches I had ever had. I was ashamed of myself for sitting there and not defending Patti. I have not been much since.
“I have a hard time believing that God would allow Patti to be born as she was and if the doctors and psychiatrists were correct that ‘she could not help the way she was,’ that Patti was going to bust hell wide open. I asked a local doctor recently if the medical profession had found a cure for being gay and he said, ‘No.’ He changed the subject after that,” Mathis continued.
“I have no quarrel with any letter writers or readers on this subject. Believe what you want to. I only know that if you ever have a child or grandchild who is gay, you’ll think differently.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the location of the rally that Mr. Mathis attended.