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Namibia’s Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Same-sex couple

FILE - Dozens of people cheer and dance as they take part in the Namibian Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual (LGBT) community pride Parade in the streets of the Namibian capital on July 29, 2017 in Windhoek.

Namibia’s Supreme Court has ruled that a government ministry must reconsider a same-sex couple’s appeal for residence rights.

Namibia Supreme Court Chief Justice Peter Shivute said Monday that the Ministry of Home Affairs should look again at an application for resident status from Mexican national Guillermo Delgado.

Delgado, who is in a same-sex union with Namibian national Phillip Luhl, argued that he is domiciled in Namibia and therefore does not need a visa when entering the country.

The two men have been at the center of controversy regarding travel documentation and their status as a married couple in a country that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Speaking to VOA, LGBT activist Ndilokelwa Nthetwa said the court’s ruling, while narrow, is a win for the couple’s case.

“It is still quite a bit murky and ambiguous especially for the LGBTQ+ Community, because this specific verdict at the Supreme Court would have been seen as a historic legal precedent to recognize the domicile status of a foreign national in a same-sex union, but now since this isn’t the cast, it’s now just relied on a technical approach where it has to be referred back to the ministry,” said Nthetwa.

Nthetwa acknowledged that the judgement does not affect the broader LGBT Community.

“The couple themselves, this impacts them and not necessarily for the community, but it is a win in the way that the Supreme Court has recognized that the ministry has abused public policy (trust) to treat this couple and their family in a very inhumane and hostile manner,” said Nthetwa.

The judgement handed down is one of many that has put LGBT rights at the center of public discourse in Namibia.

Another same-sex couple, Namibian citizen Johan Potgieter and South African national Danie Digashu, has signaled they will ask the Supreme Court to make the Namibian government recognize their union that took place in South Africa.

Namibia’s High Court ruled on January 20 the court could not recognize their marriage as it does not align with the country’s constitution which only recognizes marriage as a union between a man and a woman.