Category: Entertainment / January 22, 2013 3:33 PM EST
The House of Commons on Tuesday (January 22) began debating a centuries-old rule which discriminates against females in the line of royal succession and gives sons precedence over daughters as heirs to the throne.
The current rules, which date back to 1701, mean that if Prince William (who is currently second in line to the throne) and his pregnant wife Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge had a daughter, she would be leap-frogged by any subsequent son the couple had. If Prince William didn't have any sons, his brother Prince Harry would become king after William.
Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the coalition Liberal Democrat party, Nick Clegg called the current royal succession tradition as from a "bygone era".
"The current rules of succession belong to a bygone era. They reflect old prejudices and old fears. Today we don't support laws which discriminate on either religious or gender grounds. They have no place in modern Britain and certainly not in our monarchy," he said.
Also in the parliamentary bill is a provision to end rules which prevent the monarch and prospective heirs from marrying a Catholic.
While members of parliament are in support of reform, many have concerns over the new legislation being approved too quickly without proper debate, warning there could be a risk of unintended consequences.
"A Catholic may marry an heir to the throne, but may not then maintain the succession by bringing up a child of that marriage as a Catholic. Now the reason I object to this is that it is an attack on the teaching of the Catholic Church," said member of parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Mark Durkan, a member of parliament from Northern Ireland said the language proposed in the succession bill relating to the Catholic religion was offensive.
"The choice we're making...is basically putting a twenty-first century license on arcane and offensive language, quite sectarian provisions. Provisions which, if a politician in Northern Ireland used that same language on a political platform, people would be talking about incitement to religious hatred," he said.
Others questioned whether the new bill should allow the British public to decide if inheriting the throne could skip a generation.
Currently Prince Charles will take over as sovereign only when the Queen dies. If Queen Elizabeth keeps up her good health, Charles will be an old man when he becomes king.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child in July. Any changes parliament approves would apply retroactively to any child born after October 2011.
The 15 other realms of the Commonwealth also have to agree to changes, which they did do late last year, just before it was announced Kate was expecting.
The House of Commons debate was continuing on Tuesday evening.