Tennessee GOP Lt. Gov. Randy McNally faces criticism for supporting anti-LGBTQ bills after ‘heart’ emojis on Instagram posts

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R) is facing controversy after reports revealed that his Instagram account liked half-nude photos of a gay man whose account he follows despite McNally’s support for anti-LGBTQ legislation.

The Tennessee Holler, an “audience-supported progressive news site,” reported on Wednesday, after users of social media platforms began discussing the posts, that McNally’s account has posted heart emojis and encouraging comments on posts from an account for a 20-year-old man named Franklyn McClure, who uses the name “Franklyn Superstar” on Instagram.

Screenshots that the Holler included in its story show McNally’s official account posting emojis of red hearts, fire, hands clapping and a smiling face with hearts for eyes. It also shows him posting comments like “Super!” and “Love it.”

McNally has received sharp criticism from detractors over alleged hypocrisy following the revelations in light of McNally’s past actions on LGBTQ issues and the anti-LGBTQ legislation that the state legislature recently passed and that Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed into law.

Lee made Tennessee the first state in the country to target drag shows when he signed bills last week to prohit them from taking place in public or in the presence of children.

The Tennessee House also passed a bill earlier this week to expand the state’s criminalization of drag shows in certain conditions, which would ban children from attending entertainment that is “erotic in nature” or includes exotic dancers or a male or female “impersonator.” It would also require “adult cabaret” performers to obtain a permit from the state to get paid for their job.

Republicans across many states throughout the country have called for legislation to prevent children from attending drag shows and that curtail LGBTQ rights.

The Washington Post reported that McNally has backed legislation prohibiting same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court declared in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution protects it. The outlet also reported that McNally supported legislation to restrict drag performances, though he did not support preventing transgender children from receiving gender-affirming care.

McNally told the Nashville-based CBS affiliate WTVF in an interview following the revelations that he has evolved in his view of the LGBTQ community. He said he first friended McClure on Facebook and then followed him on Instagram.

The Tennessee Republican said he tries to encourage people with his social media posts. He said liking a post that McClure made in which he said that he is “not a WHORE” but is a “H–” was “probably not” appropriate.

He said he has not had any personal relationship with McClure and never met him in person.

WTVF reported that the outlet found other Instagram posts from LGBTQ individuals that McNally liked and commented on.

McNally told the outlet that he has tried to be more supportive of LGBTQ people and has opposed some legislation regarding the community that Republican colleagues of his have proposed.

“I’m really, really sorry if I’ve embarrassed my family, embarrassed my friends, embarrassed any of the members of the legislature with the posts,” he said.

Adam Kleinheider, McNally’s communications director, told The Hill in a statement that the lieutenant governor is a “prolific social media commenter” and tries to post “encouraging things” to many of his followers.

“Does he always use the proper emoji at the proper time? Maybe not,” Kleinheider said. “But he enjoys interacting with constituents and Tennesseans of all religions, backgrounds and orientations on social media. He has no intention of stopping.”

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