Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, who also serves as the speaker of the state Senate, has recently come under fire for his Instagram comments on the posts of a young gay man. Franklin McClure, a 20-year-old performer from Knoxville who goes by Franklyn Superstar on social media, has received supportive comments and emojis from McNally on his shirtless and risque photos.
While some comments from McNally date back to June 2020, they gained attention after The Tennessee Holler reported the story, prompting criticism from LGBTQ people and advocates who accuse McNally of hypocrisy. They note that his state has recently passed bills that target the community. This year alone, Tennessee lawmakers have introduced 26 bills targeting LGBTQ people, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
McNally, who identifies as a conservative, has left comments that are supportive and at times, flirtatious. In response to a photo of McClure dancing outside in his underwear, McNally wrote, “Love it,” with heart emojis. In another close-up photo of McClure’s backside, where he’s only wearing what appear to be briefs, McNally wrote, “Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine!” along with hearts and fire emojis. In response, McClure thanked him and said, “You are literally always so nice King,” using a heart emoji.
While McNally’s communications director, Adam Kleinheider, has defended the comments as friendly and part of McNally’s prolific social media use, some have questioned his motives. Critics have pointed out that McNally previously sponsored legislation to ban same-sex marriage, though he claims to have supported it before the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in favor of same-sex marriage.
Despite the controversy, McClure told The Tennessee Holler that he has no negative opinion of McNally and sees the comments as compliments. However, he opposes the state’s efforts to restrict drag and transition care for minors. While McNally voted in favor of the drag bill, he did not vote on the restriction on gender-affirming care. In the past, McNally has stated that the Senate would be “sensitive to the effect that some of those might have on businesses and on events that could occur in Tennessee” and also “sensitive to the rights of individuals.”
The controversy surrounding McNally’s comments highlights the ongoing tension between conservative politicians and the LGBTQ community. While some politicians have taken steps to support LGBTQ rights, others have worked to pass legislation that targets the community. As the fight for equal rights continues, incidents like these remind us of the work that still needs to be done.