American women could soon have to register for the military draft if a group of federal lawmakers gets their way. The House Armed Services Committee approved an amendment Wednesday to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that would make signing up for the Selective Service mandatory for women like it is men, the Associated Press reported. The vote was close — 32-30 — and caused controversy within the Republican party.
“If we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, then we should support a universal conscription,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said, according to the AP.
Essentially all male American citizens and immigrants between the ages of 18 and 26 must register for involuntary service in case of national emergency, though the system hasn't been used since 1973, according to the Selective Service website. Women have historically been excluded from the draft, and the tradition was bolstered by a 1981 Supreme Court decision based on the fact that females weren't allowed to hold certain combat jobs, the Hill reported.
But the policy has sparked debate in recent months after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all combat jobs to women in December — announcement that went against the advice of the Marine Corps, according to the Military Times.
"They'll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They'll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men," Carter said at the time. "And even more importantly, our military will be better able to harness the skills and perspectives that talented women have to offer."
Wednesday's proposal was intended to be a symbolic protest against Carter's choice, Bloomberg reported. As the meeting went on, however, it became real. The amendment's sponsor, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., even voted against it.
“The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemy’s throats out,” the Hill reported Hunter said. “I don’t want to see my daughters put in a place where they have to get drafted.”
As of 2014, there were about 201,000 active-duty women in the military, while there were 1.1 million men.