.- Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-La.), a self-described âproud co-sponsorâ of a bill ending a policy against open homosexuals in the military, has received an award from the Log Cabin Republicans. He told the group that his Catholic faith and Jesuit background helped drive his support to change the ban.
The stance of Rep. Cao, who has previously cited his faith as a justification for other political positions, contradicts that of the Archbishop of the Archdiocese for Military Services who has opposed changes to the so-called âDonât Ask, Donât Tellâ (DADT) policy.
Last Wednesday the Log Cabin Republicans held their 2010 National Dinner in Washington, D.C. at the Capitol Hill Club. The group gave the âSpirit of Lincolnâ Award to Rep. Cao, three other congressmen and a British MP. The award recognizes âleaders and allies who have been steadfast supporters of the fight for equal rights.â
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), was also honored by the group for a separate award. He did not attend the meeting, citing a last-minute scheduling conflict, but taped a video message for the event.
In Rep. Caoâs acceptance speech, provided to CNA by the congressmanâs office, he said that the DADT policy is âa tool for the military to weed gays out.â He protested the expulsion of more than 14,000 servicemen under the policy, saying military rules should not include âa built-in discriminatory bias based on sexual orientation.â
Senators opposed to the change were a âminorityâ engaged in âobstructionist tactics,â Cao contended, charging that they disregard âequality and justice for all.â
Invoking the civil rights movement, the congressman said there is âsomething universalâ in the stories of those who suffer discrimination.
âDeep within the human spirit is a God-given hunger for fairness, goodness and truth, just as there is natural human repulsion for wrong, injustice and evil,â he commented, claiming that the âstruggleâ of homosexual servicemen makes the United States a better country for everyone.
Rep. Cao also noted his own past, saying it gives him âcommon groundâ with those outside the mainstream. He spent the first years of his life in wartime Vietnam, where his father was tortured by North Vietnamese Communists.
âAs the first and only Vietnamese-American serving in Congress, I have a keen understanding of what itâs like to be a minority,â he continued, noting his past as a Jesuit seminarian who did missionary work in Mexico and Asia.
âDuring my time in Congress, I have made the cause of human rights a high-priority item on my legislative agenda. And still-driven by my Catholic faith and Jesuit background, I have been especially concerned for those whose voice is sometimes drowned out by the volume of political noise on Capitol Hill. Those include members of the Gay and Lesbian community,â the congressman told the Log Cabin Republicans.
Rep. Cao noted that he was one of only two GOP congressmen to co-sponsor changes to DADT. He also noted his co-sponsorship of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, his support for AIDS funding, and his opposition to anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda.
Professing a belief that all are created equal, he said he had âgreat faithâ that âtruth and justice will prevailâ and so is not worried about the Senate filibuster against DADT changes.
âThe obstructionists will only be able to hold out for so long, and it is up to us who stand against discrimination to usher in a better way at the first opportunity,â the congressmanâs remarks concluded.
In a June 1 statement, Archbishop Thomas Broglio of the Catholic Archdiocese for Military Services opposed changes to DADT. He voiced concerns that changing the policy could affect Catholic chaplains and other servicemen. Noting the need for strong rules against immoral activity, he said moral beliefs should not be sacrificed for âmerely political considerations.â
A poll commissioned by The Military Culture Coalition (MCC) found that 37 percent of likely voters favor imposing career penalties on servicemen who oppose homosexuality, including chaplains, if the DADT policy is eliminated. These respondents say the military should try to change personal attitudes on the issue.
Rep. Cao was the only Republican to vote in favor of the first version of the House health care bill in 2009, which included the strong Stupak Amendment restrictions on abortion. He said his decision was affected by attending Mass and praying before the vote.
CNA sought further comment from Rep. Caoâs office. However, in a Monday e-mail Caoâs communications director Taylor Henry said the congressman was traveling and not available to respond.
The Log Cabin Republicans are participants in a federal lawsuit challenging the DADT policy. According to their website, the group also supports same-sex âmarriageâ and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
In the past the group has been financed by the multi-millionaire homosexual activist Tim Gill of Colorado, a Democrat who typically backs Democratic-leaning causes.