Commonwealth approves royal succession changes
Updated: 2011-10-29 08:11
PERTH, Australia - British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Friday that the 16 Commonwealth countries for which Queen Elizabeth II is monarch have agreed to remove gender discrimination in the order of succession to the throne.
Commonwealth national leaders also agreed at a summit in the west coast city of Perth to lift a ban on monarchs marrying Roman Catholics, he said.
Any one of the former British colonies could have vetoed the changes to the centuries-old rules that ensure that a male heir takes the throne ahead of older sisters.
"Attitudes have changed fundamentally over the centuries and some of the outdated rules - like some of the rules of succession - just don't make sense to us any more," Cameron told reporters in Perth.
"The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he is a man, or that a future monarch can marry someone of any faith except a Catholic - this way of thinking is at odds with the modern countries that we have become," he added.
Cameron made the announcement on the first day of a biennial meeting of 53 Commonwealth leaders.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Australia's first female leader and chairwoman of the summit, welcomed the decision.
"These things seem straightforward, but just because they seem straightforward to our modern minds doesn't mean we should underestimate their historic significance," Gillard told reporters.
Elizabeth II is head of state of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Belize, St. Christopher and Nevis, St. Lucia, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Papua New Guinea.
She opened the meeting of leaders representing 30 percent of the world's population on Friday by vowing to bring needed relevancy to the Commonwealth in a time of global uncertainty and insecurity.
The queen cited financial concerns, food supply insecurity and climate change among key issues she expected the forum to tackle.