When Namibian Phillip Luhl and his Mexican husband Guillermo Delgado decided to start a family, they did not anticipate how hard it would be to bring their children home.
The couple live in Namibia, where same-sex marriage is not legally recognized. They married in South Africa and welcomed three children there via surrogacy: a son, born in 2019, and twin daughters born this year.
Their children can obtain Namibian citizenship, but only if Luhl provides authorities with genetic proof he is the father.
He refuses, saying there was no basis in Namibian law nor in the constitution that parentage is defined by genetic link, and thinks the law discriminates against the couple because they are both parents.
"While one of us has to have a genetic link under South African law that's one of the sort of requirements of the surrogacy process. It doesn't mean that only one of us is the parent, we are both the parents, legally and for all intents and purposes.”
Lühl says that back in 2019, they were able to obtain emergency travel documents to bring their son home to Namibia.
But when he applied for emergency documents for their twin daughters, he was rejected.
“We have followed the legislative process, we have the sort of kind of authentic documents and Namibia has picked out that we're a same-sex couple and that there cannot be such a thing as two fathers in the minds of certain people. And so that is where, where we believe it is, discrimination on the basis of us being a same-sex couple.”
The couple asked the court in Namibia to review the decision. A ruling is due on April 19.
The matter of their son’s citizenship was challenged in a Namibian court in November 2019 and is still pending.
For now, the family remains separated, with Luhl and the twins in South Africa and Delgado in Namibia with their son.
“My husband hasn't seen his daughters who are now a month old and I mean these first days and weeks are precious. They're so amazing, to get to know them, to see their personality, you know from day one, you can, you know, you have two additional people in your family and so he has been deprived of that possibility.”