Peanut farmer Nathan Mathis made headlines this week when a short video of him protesting outside a Monday rally for Moore went viral. The 74-year-old said his decision to protest was inspired by his own experiences with his daughter, Patti Sue, who was gay. Patti Sue died by suicide in 1995 at age 23.
At the rally, Mathis carried a sign that read: “Judge Roy Moore called my daughter Patti Sue Mathis a pervert because she was gay. A 32 year old Roy Moore dated teenage girls ages 14 to 17. So that makes him a pervert of the worst kind.”
Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, including some who say he pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.
In a Daily Beast interview published Wednesday, Mathis shrugged off his newfound fame, insisting that his decision to protest “wasn’t about me.” He said he hopes his presence drew attention to Moore’s longstanding opposition to the LGBTQ community. (The former judge once compared LGBTQ rights to Nazism, and claimed that homosexual conduct should be illegal.)
“Gay people would not have had a chance on any bill with him up there as a United States senator,” Mathis said. “There’s no way they were going to get a fair shake with Roy Moore, so thank God Roy Moore is not going to be going to Washington.”
“When Roy Moore took the stance he did against gay people calling them perverts and then abominations, and even went as far as saying it’s a crime to be gay... I don’t know, I just couldn’t sit there any more,” he said. “I just had to say something.”
Mathis described his struggle to accept Patti Sue after a friend told him she was a lesbian.
“I said bad things to her, because I had been to church all my life, and sat there many times and heard preachers preach against gay folks from the pulpit,” he recalled. “I told Patti that I’d rather my child was dead rather than have a gay child. I regret I said that very much but I did say that.”
He said he “still feels terrible” about Patti Sue’s death, but he thinks she “would have appreciated what I did.”
“I felt like I had failed my daughter,” he said. “And so do I sit and watch Roy Moore keep lambasting gay folks, or do I try and do something about it? Somebody needed to do it, and so I did it.”
Although his wife, Sue, isn’t especially fond of her husband’s activism, Mathis told The Daily Beast he’d like to continue to be an LGBTQ rights advocate.
“I will do anything I can do to help. All people need to realize that what happened to my child... it could be your child next or your grandchild,” he said. “Don’t do like I did. You need to hug their neck and say, ‘Look, you are who you are and I love you regardless.’”
He continued, “We need to realize that gay folks have rights just like people who are not gay, and we need to quit letting politicians lambast gay folks every time they have an election, trying to get votes.”
Read the full Daily Beast interview with Mathis here.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.