House committee backs requirement for women to register for draft

© Andrew Burton
In the wake of the Pentagon fully embracing gender equality, a House of Representatives committee narrowly approved a measure requiring women to register for Selective Service, the US military draft system.

Following a lengthy and often provocative debate on Wednesday night surrounding the role of women in the military, the House Armed Services Committee carried the motion with a vote of 32-30, signaling a change to the policy that has been in place since 1981.

Currently, all male US citizens and non-citizen immigrants are required to register with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. The registration remains active till the age of 26. Proof of registration is required for access to various federal programs, such as student loans, and as a prerequisite for federal employment and naturalization.

Filing an amendment to the House’s annual defense authorization bill, Republican Duncan Hunter said that “the draft is sexist” as it precludes women aged between 18 and 26 from registering.

The California congressman says he was angered that the Pentagon decided to open up over 200,000 military jobs to women, including all combat roles at the end of 2015 – but didn’t touch on equality before the draft board, AP reported.

READ MORE: Girls just want to get drafted: Lawsuit challenges male-only Selective Service

Hunter, a former Marine, argued that it was the Representatives who "should make this decision," not the administration. "It's the families that we represent who are affected by this,” Hunter told the committee.

Hunter says he never intended for the motion to be carried, just for the issue to be discussed. He ultimately voted against his own proposal.

“A draft is there to put bodies on the front lines to take the hill," said Hunter, trying to dissuade those in favor of the change. "The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemies' throats out and kill them."

Although the draft has never been used since 1973, when the US transitioned to an all-volunteer military in the wake of the Vietnam War, Hunter’s motion attracted widespread support among the Democrats on the committee.

“We should be willing to support universal conscription,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California). “There’s great merit in recognizing that each of us have an obligation to be willing to serve our country in a time of war.”

All but one Democrat voted for the measure, with five Republicans joining them to carry the motion.

“We have a standards-based force now, and we don’t have a standards-based Selective Service,” Rep. Christopher P. Gibson (R-New York) said, according to The Washington Post.

The measure is now part of the proposed annual National Defense Authorization Act, which outlines defense spending for the fiscal year beginning October 1. It will go to a vote before the full House in May. If approved, it will have to make its way through the Senate.