London - The British government Thursday published legislation aimed at granting equal rights to male and female babies in the succession to the British throne.
The government hopes to ensure parliamentary passage of the Succession to the Crown Bill - which entails changes to a whole set of laws dating back to the early 18th century - before the expected birth next summer of the first child of Prince William and Kate, the duchess of Cambridge.
The bill, which has received consent from all the other 15 nations which are part of the Commonwealth, will also end the ban on anyone in the line of succession marrying a Roman Catholic.
The plan to end male primogeniture - the rule that discriminated against women - was agreed in principle at a meeting of Commonwealth heads of government in Australia a year ago.
“This Bill will bring to an end centuries of discrimination against women so that the first born is next in line to the throne, regardless of whether they're a boy or a girl,” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Thursday.
Clegg said he was “delighted” that all Commonwealth countries had agreed to implement the “historic” changes. “If the duke and duchess of Cambridge have a baby girl, she can one day be our queen even if she has younger brothers,” said Clegg.
The legislation, which cannot be applied retrospectively, is already deemed to have taken effect through the consent of all Commonwealth members.
But a government spokesman said the new law would be voted on in parliament as soon as the timetable allowed - possibly early in 2013. The royal baby is due in June or July. - Sapa-dpa