British PM pushes royal equality in Commonwealth
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LONDON -- Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has written to his counterparts in 15 former British colonies to ask them to support a move to give royal daughters the same rights to the throne as their brothers.
Current laws, including the 1700 Act of Settlement, give male heirs precedence over their older sisters. The act also excludes Roman Catholics, or anyone married to a Roman Catholic, from becoming king or queen.
For three decades, ministers have resisted changing the law to end the discrimination on the grounds that it is too complicated and would need agreement from the other countries of which Queen Elizabeth II is monarch.
After Prince William, the second in line to the throne, married Kate Middleton in April, Mr. Cameron put changing the rules onto the agenda for the Commonwealth summit in Perth, Australia, later this month.
"We espouse gender equality in all other aspects of life, and it is an anomaly that in the rules relating to the highest public office we continue to enshrine male superiority," Mr. Cameron wrote in the letter, which was sent at the end of last month, his office said in an emailed statement Wednesday.
"We will be having a meeting about this" in Perth, the prime minister told lawmakers Wednesday during his weekly question-and-answer session in the House of Commons in London. "It isn't an easy issue to sort, and there may be worries about starting a legal process. I am clear it is an issue we ought to get sorted, and I would be delighted in playing a part in doing that."
In his letter, Mr. Cameron also proposed a change in the law that says descendents of King George II, who reigned from 1727 to 1760, can only marry with the permission of the monarch. The law would change to say only the first six in line to the throne would need permission, the premier's spokesman, Steve Field, told reporters.
Mr. Field said the government's position was that heirs to the throne should now be allowed to marry Roman Catholics. Catholics would still not be allowed to ascend to the throne, he said.
"The monarch is supreme governor of the Church of England and is required by the Act of Settlement to be in communion with the Church of England, and the rules of the Roman Catholic Church forbid that," Mr. Field said. The queen is aware of the proposed changes, he said.
Eleven attempts since 1981 to change the laws governing the royal succession have failed.
First Published October 13, 2011 12:00 am