Talks to end royal succession ban on Catholics, daughters

March 27th, 2009 - 5:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon Brown London, March 27 (IANS) Prime Minister Gordon Brown has opened talks with the royal family to end a three century-old ban on Catholics becoming British monarchs, a government source said.
He also wants royal women to be granted equal succession rights, so that the first-born son does not automatically become king.

“There are clearly issues about the exclusion of people from the rights of succession and there are clearly issues that have got to be dealt with,” Brown told the BBC during a tour of Brazil.

“This is not an easy set of answers. But I think in the 21st century people do expect discrimination to be removed and they do expect us to be looking at all these issues,” he added.

Brown’s comments came ahead of a debate on a Private Members’ Bill in parliament aimed at ending the discrimination against Catholics.

The Bill also seeks to amend the primogeniture rules, which state the first-born son of the monarch takes precedence in the succession over older daughters.

But although the Labour government agrees with its sentiments, it is not backing the Bill because of the complexities involved.

Such reform would need the backing of the 15 other Commonwealth countries which have the British monarch as their head of state, Labour MPs have been told.

A law dating back to 1701, introduced at the height of the anti-Catholic movement in England, bans Catholics from marrying into the royal family.

Prince Michael of Kent, a first cousin of the Queen and grandson of King George V, had to remove himself from the line of succession in the 1970s to marry an Austrian Catholic.

A government source was quoted as telling the media: “The prime minister is having an ongoing dialogue with the palace about it. The palace is open to the dialogue. The prime minister has been in discussions about this issue with commonwealth leaders. He will raise it at their November summit.”

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