Alabama election: Farmer's attack on Roy Moore over homophobic remarks may have sealed candidate's fate

Republican already embroiled in child sex abuse allegations taken to task over 'perverts' comment on final night of campaigning by Nathan Mathis, whose lesbian daughter killed herself

Eli Rosenberg
Wednesday 13 December 2017 12:24
Father of gay suicide daughter attacks Roy Moore

Perhaps it was the man's strong but plain-spoken rebuke outside a Roy Moore rally on the campaign's final night, condemning the Republican candidate's past comments lambasting homosexuality.

Perhaps it was the admission of the man, a peanut farmer, that he too, had harboured some of the same anti-gay feelings.

Perhaps it was his sign, a photograph of his daughter, a lesbian who, he said, had killed herself when she was 23.

Whatever it was, the two-minute video of Nathan Mathis struck a nerve, travelling far and wide as a sort of emotional coda to a wrenching US Senate race in Alabama that has captivated the country.

Alabama voters went to the polls on Tuesday and elected Doug Jones, a moderate Democrat who came to prominence helping to prosecute Ku Klux Klan members as a US attorney in the 1990s, over Moore, a far-right conservative and former judge whose candidacy has sharply divided the party he represents and the electorate beyond.

The 74-year-old Mathis, a former county commissioner and state representative in Alabama, said he was speaking out against Moore because of his own experience with his daughter, Patti Sue.

He said that Moore's comments on homosexuality amounted to calling gay people “perverts.”

“This is something people need to stop and think about,” Mathis said. “You're supposed to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution said all men were created equal. But how is my daughter a pervert just because she's gay?”

Moore, whose politics are sharply tinged by a rigid interpretation of Christianity, has a long track record of speaking harshly about gays. He has said that homosexual conduct “should be illegal,” that it is “an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one's ability to describe it,” and that “sodomy is against the laws of nature.”

Mathis, who described himself as religious, said that he too shared some of those anti-gay beliefs.

“I said bad things to my daughter myself, which I regret,” he said. “But I can't take back what happened to my daughter. Stuff like saying my daughter was a pervert, I'm sure that bothered her.”

But he said Moore's thoughts on gay people rang false to him.

“We don't need a person like that representing us in Washington,” he said. “That's why I'm here.”

He held a sign that noted the accusations that surfaced during the campaign by women who said that Moore made sexual advances towards them when they were teenagers.

“So that makes him a pervert of the worst kind,” the sign read. “Please don't vote for Roy Moore!”

Moore has denied these allegations.

Mathis wrote about his daughter in a letter to The Dothan Eagle, a small Alabama newspaper, in 2012.

Born in 1972, she was “a wonderful child” who was “very athletic, tomboyish (I always had to pitch batting practice to her after Dixie Youth practice), very beautiful and smart,” he wrote. But after he learned that she was gay from a friend while she was in high school, he confronted her and “said some things to her that still eat on me to this day,” he wrote, though he later apologised.

A few years later, she killed herself. Mathis wrote that he found her; she was 23.

“She was tired of being ridiculed and made fun of,” Mathis wrote. “She was tired of seeing how a lot of people treat gay people.”

He described another moment of regret after his daughter's death, after sitting in a church while a preacher bashed gays.

“I was ashamed of myself for sitting there and not defending Patti,” he wrote. “May God have mercy on us all. I only know I miss my daughter Patti very much and I am grateful for having her as my daughter.”

Mathis' exact views on gay people were not entirely clear. In the 2012 letter, he writes of taking his daughter to doctors and psychiatrists in the hope of resolving her sexuality at her request. He has run for office as both a Democrat and a Republican.

On Monday, a reporter asked him what he was hoping to accomplish with his protest.

“I had mixed emotions about coming, but somebody needs to speak up,” he said. “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.”

The Washington Post

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in