The exact toll of Roy Moore’s Senate candidacy remains unclear—both for the state and the nation. The allegations of sexual misconduct by Moore have, rightly, become the inescapable axis of the Alabama special election that will be held on Tuesday. The women who have come forward about their experiences with Moore decades ago, when most of them were just teenagers, have already carried a heavy burden. The swirling accusations have subsumed all other campaign issues; they have also engulfed the other extreme costs exacted by Roy Moore and his bigoted worldview. On Monday evening, during Moore’s final campaign stop before voters go to the polls, we got a reminder of the consequences of Moore’s beliefs, and the steep price others pay, in the form of Alabama peanut farmer Nathan Mathis.
Mathis stood outside the Midland City Moore rally Monday night with a picture of his daughter Patti Sue Mathis fully decked out in a basketball uniform. Patti Sue was born in 1972 and was gay. It was something he struggled with as a father until she took her own life at the age of 23. A local businessman who was involved in local politics for much of his life, Mathis’ voice quivered and hands trembled as he spoke about his daughter’s death nearly twenty years ago and the impact of having someone like Roy Moore, a man who has expressed unbridled contempt for the LGBTQ community and said homosexuality should be outlawed, in office.
Mathis: … Judge Roy Moore called her a pervert on one reason—because she was gay. If he called her a pervert he called your child a pervert if she was gay or your son was gay. This is something people need to stop and think about. You’re supposed to uphold the Constitution. Constitution said all men are created equal. Well, how’s my daughter a pervert just because she was gay? Does it mean she was born gay? I don’t know the answer to that. But she was gay. There she is. [Holding up the picture]
Reporter: Being out here tonight what do you hope to accomplish?
Mathis: I don’t know what I’ll to accomplish. I really don’t. 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 speaks for itself and my sign is true.
Reporter: Sir, are you suggesting the suicide of your daughter was because of [things that were said like that]…
Mathis: No, I’m not suggesting that. 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, I’m sure that bothered her. 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 was elected to the Houston County Commission in 1974 and later served in the Alabama statehouse from 1982-1994. The local businessman has run for office multiple times as a sometimes-Democrat and ran as recently as 2013 as a Republican. Beyond the statehouse, Mathis made a gubernatorial bid in 2006 as a Democrat and a closer-than-expected 2016 congressional run to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Martha Roby in the state’s 2nd district.
In 2012, Mathis wrote about his daughter in the local Dothan Eagle paper to take on anti-gay letters to the paper. “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. I found Patti that day,” Mathis wrote. “I only know that if you ever have a child or grandchild who is gay, you’ll think differently.”