Namibia’s high court has refused to legally recognize the marriages of two same-sex couples who wed outside of the country.
Nambian native Anette Seiller-Lilles married her partner Anita Seiler-Lilles in Germany 18 years ago, while Johann Potgeiter, a Nambian citizen, married his partner Daniel Digashu and adopted in a son in South Africa.
The couples had taken their cases to court when Digashu and Anita Seiler-Lilles were unable to obtain a work permit and permanent residency respectively due to their same-sex marital status.
Same-sex relationships are illegal in Namibia due to a 1927 law banning sodomy that is rarely enforced, and same-sex couples are not granted equal rights and protections as heterosexual couples.
The two couples had argued that the term “spouse” in the nation’s immigration regulations should include same-sex couples or be declared unconstitutional.
On Jan. 13, the judge said that she agreed with their arguments but concluded that the court had to uphold the law due to a Supreme Court ruling that said the country doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages.
“Only the Supreme Court can correct itself,” the judge said, calling for the Namibian constitution be adjusted to reflect social justice and inclusivity, according to Reuters.
Anette Seiler-Lilles said that although they were disappointed with the decision, it gave them hope that things could change.
LGBTQ activists told Human Rights Watch echoed the sentiment, pointing to a recent case last October when the Namibian High Court granted citizenship to a gay couple’s two-year-old son.
The couples are expected to challenge the verdict and go on to the Supreme Court to ask it to overturn its previous ruling.
Several countries in Africa, including Nigeria, Kenya and Algeria, still ban same-sex relationships.
Anti-gay laws that were passed under British colonial rule are still being used in 37 of the Commonwealth’s 53 nations.
However, countries such as Angola and Botswana have recently moved to decriminalized gay sex.