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Britain Gets Commonwealth Consent For Changing Royal Succession Rules

Britain has received formal consent from the other 15 Commonwealth realms for proceeding with a bill that ends discrimination against women in the succession to the British throne, it was announced on Tuesday.

"The legislation is now a step closer as the governments of the realms have confirmed that they will be able to take the necessary measures in their own countries before the UK legislation comes into effect -- a crucial step following the Perth agreement," the British Cabinet Office Ministry said in a statement.

"This confirmation means that the government will seek to introduce the Succession to the Crown Bill in the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity. The legislation will end the principle of male primogeniture, so that men will no longer take precedence over women in line to the throne," it added.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described the agreement as a "historic moment for our country and our monarchy." He noted that final confirmation from the other commonwealth realms arrived on the very day that Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, confirmed that they were expecting their first child.

Clegg, who is responsible for tabling the new legislation in the Parliament, said the bill would convert into law "what we agreed back in 2011 - that if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a baby girl, she can one day be our Queen even if she later has younger brothers."

Leaders of 16 Commonwealth nations had voted at a summit in the western Australian city of Perth in October 2011 to give sons and daughters of British monarchs equal rights to the throne. Since then, the government of New Zealand has been collecting formal consent letters from the other commonwealth nations which have the British queen as head of state.

According to the proposed legislation, the first-born daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would have precedence over her younger brothers in the succession to the British throne. It also lifts a centuries-long ban on British monarchs marrying a Roman Catholic.

It marks a distinct change in more than 300-year-old laws that establishes the first born son of the monarch as heir to the throne. Previously, the crown was passed to the eldest daughter of the monarch only if there were no sons. The new Royal succession rules, however, must be ratified by the Parliaments of the 16 Commonwealth member nations to become effective.

Notably, Queen Elizabeth II had also attended last year's summit in Perth, where the proposed changes to the Royal succession laws were first approved. But in her opening address to the summit, the queen made no reference to the royal succession laws. She, however, stressed that women should be given greater role in the society, saying: "It encourages us to find ways to show girls and women to play their full part."

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