Deborah Drever said in a statement posted Tuesday on Facebook that she supports gay rights, but understands that the picutre may have caused some people harm.
The photo shows former Tory Premier Jim Prentice and former cabinet minister Ric McIver with doodled speech bubbles and a comment below that reads: "Gay boyz.''
"My flippant attempt at humour backfired and I sincerely apologize to my constituents and to all Albertans for that," said Drever.
"I want to stress in the strongest possible terms that my comment was never intended to convey an insult to LGBTQI people. I also want to make it perfectly clear that I know now that my intent doesn't matter. When it comes to discriminatory language or actions, intent is irrelevant when it causes harm to another person or persons."
Drever, a 26-year-old university student who lives with her grandmother, said she posted a screen capture of the photo on her Instagram account about a year before the May 5 election. It started circulating on Twitter last Friday, the same day NDP Premier Rachel Notley announced Drever's suspension.
A few days earlier, the premier had met with Drever to talk about other questionable social media photos. One photo shows a 19-year-old Drever standing next to a marijuana T-shirt. Another shows a disembodied hand giving the middle finger to the Canadian flag.
Drever also appeared on a garage band album cover pretending to be assaulted by a man with a bottle. Drever called that photo an inexplicable error of youth.
Online petitions called for Drever to quit or be removed from her seat.
Notley asked her to develop a plan to heighten awareness of violence against women. The premier has said she may review Drever's status in caucus within a year.
"I am also sorry that I was the source of significant distraction from what should have been a time of celebration for Premier Notley and the NDP caucus. I appreciate the premier’s past advice and will live up to the expectations she has set out for me over the coming months."
Drever said she is dedicated to her job and will stay on as an Independent member of the legislature for Calgary Bow.
"I know that I have a tremendous opportunity to serve as a role model for young people and I plan to do just that. In the coming weeks, I am focused on meeting with constituents and with equal rights organizations."