Namibia’s Supreme Court has made a historic decision that same-sex couples who got married legally in other countries should have their marriages recognized by the Namibian authorities.
The ruling, which was issued on Tuesday, was a victory for two same-sex couples who challenged the government’s refusal to grant them spousal immigration rights, including permanent residence and work permits.
The couples were Daniel Digashu, a South African national married to Johann Potgieter, a Namibian citizen, and Anita Seiler-Lilles, a German national married to Anette Seiler, a Namibian citizen. They had married in South Africa and Germany respectively, where same-sex marriage is legal.
The couples said they felt relieved and happy after the ruling.
“I feel that we can finally move on with our lives now,” Digashu said. “I’m so glad that we don’t have to worry about leaving. Now we can relax and enjoy being home and not feel threatened by deportation.”
Seiler said she and her wife were looking forward to celebrating their dream come true.
“We are married and we promised each other that we will stay together no matter what and we kept that promise through this fight for our marriage recognition,” Seiler said. “We would’ve stayed together no matter what but now we can stay together here in this beautiful country and make it our home. That was Anita’s biggest wish and mine too, and now it’s a reality. It’s amazing.”
The Supreme Court’s decision overturned a previous ruling by the Immigration Selection Board, which did not recognize same-sex spouses as “spouses” under the Immigration Control Act. The court said that this violated the constitutional rights of dignity and equality of the affected parties.
The court also stressed that the rights of dignity and equality are interlinked, and that denying recognition to same-sex marriages undermines these fundamental values. It reaffirmed the principle that if a marriage is lawfully concluded according to the laws of a foreign country, it should be recognized in Namibia.
This decision is a significant step forward for LGBTQ and intersex rights in Namibia. By broadening the definition of “spouse” in the Immigration Control Act to include same-sex spouses who married legally abroad, the court has taken an important step towards achieving equality and inclusion.
However, one of the five judges who heard the appeals disagreed with the majority decision.
He argued that Namibia is not obliged to recognize marriages that are contrary to its policies and laws, emphasizing the traditional understanding of marriage and the protection of heterosexual family life.
The dissenting opinion shows the ongoing divisions and challenges around the issue of marriage equality in the country. While it highlights the need for continued dialogue and debate, the majority decision in favor of recognizing same-sex marriages highlights the importance of constitutional rights and the principle of equality.
Anneke Meerkotter, executive director of Southern African Litigation Center, praised the court’s decision.