Lt. Gov. Randy McNally announced yesterday that he is stepping back from his engagement on social media, after enduring several days of headlines and mockery for liking provocative Instagram posts by a young gay man. In a statement, the longtime Oak Ridge legislator also defended his record on LGBTQ rights, insisting that neither he nor the state Republican Party engages in anti-gay bigotry.
You can read the full statement at the Tennessee Journal, but here are some excerpts:
"... I apologize for any embarrassment my postings have caused my family, friends and colleagues. For this reason, I will be pausing my social media activity in order to reflect and receive more guidance on the use of social media.
While I have made some mistakes in my use of social media, the characterization of me and my record as somehow 'anti-gay' is inaccurate. On a personal level, nothing could be further from the truth. I believe every person has value and deserves respect regardless of their orientation.
I am 79 years old, and was raised in a time when homosexuality was deeply shameful. And I absolutely still hold traditional Tennessee values dear. But I now have friends and even a relative who is gay. I have worked hard to try and understand this community better, and at the same time not compromise trying to protect children and my own values.
... I would encourage everyone to look at my record in its totality. It is both thoroughly conservative and compassionate to others. Though I may disagree with specific policies of certain LGBTQ activists, all people are deserving of love and compassion, no matter their race, gender, or any other attribute.
... Again, conservative and 'anti-gay' are not synonymous. Not generally and certainly not for me."
McNally has been in the Legislature since 1978 and has been lieutenant governor and speaker of the Senate since 2017. Human Rights Campaign, a national LGTBQ advocacy group, says that since 2015, Tennessee has passed more anti-LGBTQ legislation than any other state.
As it happens, the same day McNally released his statement, the state Senate voted on a bill on the Human Rights Campaign's watchlist. The measure explicitly defines "sex" in state law as "a person's immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth and evidence of a person's biological sex." LGBTQ advocates say the bill will make it difficult for transgender people to legally identify as their gender, and will encourage discrimination against them.
"Let’s be clear," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, "the goal of this bill is to exclude the LGBTQ+ community from nondiscrimination protections in the state of Tennessee and to perpetuate a false narrative of who transgender people are."
The bill passed the Senate 27-6, with all Republicans including McNally voting in favor.