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Succession reboot should recognize gay royals, MP argues

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Britain's Prince William leaves the King Edward VII hospital with his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Speculation about their child's path to the throne is already swirling. (Andrew Winning/Reuters)



British parliamentarians continued debate on a bill meant to update the "old fashioned" rules governing Royal succession on Tuesday, but one MP says a truly forward-thinking bill would recognize same-sex partnerships and their progeny.

Royal Succession laws set to be changed

Paul Flynn of the Labour party, who has proposed several amendments to the Succession bill, argues that same-sex marriages or civil partnerships involving royals should be recognized, and that their children should qualify as heirs to the throne.

"One of the new clauses I am proposing is to future-proof the monarchy from charges of discrimination by giving same-sex partnerships the same validity as heterosexual ones in the rights of succession," Flynn explained in a blog post on his website.

Although the MP thinks the change is a long shot, and hopes for little more than a free open debate on a "protozoan level," he added "I and a few others will be ready to contribute" in the event that the amendment is called.

But some observers, including James Park of LGBT media company Pink News, are a bit more optimistic about the amendment's chances and the willingness of MPs of all stripes to discuss it maturely.

They note that Flynn's proposal could at least secure a full debate if the house speaker John Bercow, who has shown support for LGBT rights in the past, allows it.

A debate, they add, could have the "support of many Labour, Liberal Democrats and most Conservatives that back David Cameron's plans to introduce same-sex marriage."

Others, like George Trefgarne of The Spectator, has called the Succession bill a "constitutional can of worms" and characterizes Flynn's amendments as "mischievous."

Trefgarne argues that, in the name of modernization, parliament may be introducing doubt and executive discretion at the cost of pragmatism, and that critics prefer to respond to situations instead of re-writing precedents.

"If we were confronted with a brilliant elder daughter, married to a Catholic, we would probably find a way of allowing her to succeed without resorting to a doctrinare process fraught with legal difficulty," he writes.

To pass the new rules, parliament will have to revise some constitutional documents, including:

• the 1688 Bill of Rights and Coronation Oath Act
• the 1701 Act of Settlement
• the 1706 Act of Union with Scotland

The Succession to the Crown Bill was published in December and started the second of three readings Tuesday in the British House of Commons.

The changes expected to pass include allowing first born daughters to be heirs to the British throne and permitting royals to marry Catholics - amendments that many argue are long overdue.

Still, experts have cautioned that nothing has yet been set in stone.

"We know that the wishes of politicians are written in water," said royal historian Robert Lacey. "Law only becomes law when the law is made -- and the law has not been made," royal historian Robert Lacey said in December.

Complicating matters is the fact that 15 Commonwealth nations, which have already agreed to a version of the bill, would have to review amendments as well.

What changes do you think a forward-thinking Succession bill would include? Are there some rules you believe should remain "old fashioned?"

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