The screen you are describing is a safety barrier intended to prevent direct contact with the glass front when the fireplace is operating. This is because the glass can get hot enough to cause serious injury. Barrier screens became a code requirement for direct vent gas fireplaces in 2015. In theory, you could remove the screen and operate the fireplace, but please note the risks involved.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on November 2, 2021