Weeks after a Namibian court refused to issue travel documents for a gay couples’ infant twin daughters, born in South Africa through surrogacy, the government has backtracked and will issue the emergency travel certificates as requested. This will allow 38-year-old Phillip Luehl to finally bring his daughters home to his husband, Guillermo Delgado, who stayed behind in Namibia with the couple’s two-year-old daughter. Mr. Luehl and the children have been stuck in Johannesburg, with the children essentially stateless.
The court’s initial refusal to issue the travel documents stated that Mr. Luehl, who is a Namibian citizen, hadn’t provided genetic proof that he was the children’s father – even though both he and his husband are listed on the children’s birth certificates. The new parents argued that this requirement essentially amounted to homophobia by the government, as a single mother or heterosexual couple would not be asked to prove their genetic relationship in a similar situation.
In announcing that it would issue the applied-for emergency travel certificates for the babies, the government of Namibia blamed the initial denial on a change of guard in the home ministry. The decision to issue the certificates was made by the new minister, Albert Kawana, after he studied the original request.
The new fathers are happy with the decision, of course, but also frustrated at the effort and resources required to reach this point. Namibia does not formally recognize same-sex marriages like Mr. Luehl’s and Mr. Delgado’s, and homosexuality is illegal under a rarely-enforced 1927 law. It is possible that this decision to treat the couple the same as any other couple is a sign that changing public opinions are slowly influencing policies in the South African country.
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