Commonwealth scraps royal succession rules?
Perth - The 16 Commonwealth countries for which Queen Elizabeth II is monarch agreed on Friday that males will no longer have precedence over females in the order of succession to the throne.
Commonwealth national leaders also agreed at a summit in the western Australian city of Perth to lift a ban on monarchs marrying Roman Catholics, British Prime Minister David Cameron 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.
Cameron told reporters: "Attitudes have changed fundamentally over the centuries and some of the outdated rules - like some of the rules of succession - just don't make sense to us anymore.
"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.
All 16 countries now have to begin their own individual legislative processes to enact the reforms. In Britain, that means passing and amending several pieces of legislation.
The complexity of getting all the countries to begin legislative processes is what has held up the changes for decades. Following Friday's announcement, New Zealand will chair a working group for the countries to discuss how to accomplish the reforms.
Cameron's announcement came on the first day of a biennial meeting of 53 Commonwealth leaders.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Australia's first female leader and chair 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% 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.