Under Historic New Law, Women Given Equal Right to British Throne

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For 300 years, the English crown passed to the oldest male heir. Now, it will simply go to the first-born – even if she’s a girl.

The change to the Act of Succession, agreed to today by leaders of the Commonwealth (including British ex-colonies Canada, Australia and Jamaica), marks a departure from centuries of constitutional tradition.

Under the old rules, any male child born to Prince William and Kate Middleton would be able to swipe the royal scepter from his sisters, even if they were older. “Put simply, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl, that girl would one day be our queen,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron. He announced the changes at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia as the Queen looked on.

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The Commonwealth countries also agreed to scrap laws banning a future monarch from marrying a Catholic. “This will eliminate a point of unjust discrimination against Catholics and will be welcomed not only by Catholics but far more widely,” said the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster.

Cameron added that the old rules were “at odds with the modern countries that we have become.”

Some Brits, however, say that by those standards, the monarchy itself should be scraped. “The monarchy discriminates against every man, woman and child who isn’t born into the Windsor family,” said Graham Smith of the anti-monarchy campaign group Republic. “To suggest that this has anything to do with equality is utterly absurd.”