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Females now eligible for Britain's throne

In a majestic moment for gender equality, female members of the British royal family on Friday were granted the same rights as males to ascend to the British throne.

The 16 Commonwealth nations that acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II as their monarch announced that male heirs will no longer take precedence over their sisters in succession.

The historic reform overturns a 300-year rule stating that first-born sons inherit the British throne. The only way for a woman to ascend to the throne, as Queen Elizabeth did in 1952, had been if the previous monarch had no sons.

The Commonwealth leaders also scrapped the rule barring a potential monarch from marrying a Catholic, although the monarch will remain head of the Church of England.

The changes mean that, regardless of gender, any first-born child of Prince William, currently second in line to become king after his father, would eventually become the monarch.

"If the royal couple have a girl rather than a boy, then that little girl would be our queen," British Prime Minister David Cameron told the BBC. "This is a simple act of modernization and one that is right for our time."

The reforms were announced in Perth, Australia, at a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. Any of the Commonwealth countries could have vetoed the changes, but they were approved unanimously.

"The great strength of our constitutional approach is its ability to evolve," Cameron said. "Attitudes have changed fundamentally over the centuries, and some of the outdated rules, like some of the rules of succession, just don't make sense to us any more."

"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," Cameron added.

But while the changes have been agreed upon in principle, individual governments, including those in Canada and Australia, must still introduce legislation to enact them.

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