By David Gibbons
Freedom to Marry (FTM) sparked its campaign to win the right to same-sex marriage in New York State last year with a series of short videos featuring charming, engaging gay couples–not least among them George Constantinou and Farid Ali Lancheros–that put a human face on the issue and helped insure the movement’s success.
“It was very much a fulfillment of our approach of giving the reachable but not-yet-reached personal, local stories that open hearts and change minds, as the president recently described,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of FTM and a civil rights lawyer who has argued cases all the way up to the Supreme Court.
The videos highlighted the couples’ commitment and sincerity, nudging viewers to the conclusion that they deserve a chance at marriage just like anybody else. Where are they today? Constantinou and Lancheros are about to get married, if only they can find an hour or two to tear themselves away from their thriving, demanding business and hurry down to the courthouse for a civil ceremony. (The celebration will come later.)
Their daily life constitutes a version of the classic American Dream: A young couple, the hard-working offspring of striving immigrants, sets up a household in Brooklyn, opens a restaurant a few blocks away, puts in the sweat, builds the business and, after a few years, decides to start a family.
“I guess you’d have to say we’re living the gay American dream,” Lancheros said. “It’s astounding. And it’s really testament to the fact that with determination, faith and action, all things are possible.”
The first and most obvious question–how did they have children?– is answered in their baby shower video. (Go to YouTube and search “George and Farid” or "Farid and George's Baby Shower.") The short answer is they worked with a Boston specialty clinic that found a compatible egg donor and a surrogate willing to bear twins. They each fertilized 10 eggs, and the two most viable were implanted–one from Constantinou’s batch and the other from Lancheros’, so each of the men would be the biological father of one of their children.
Lancheros, 47, is the son of a Colombian mother and Palestinian father. Constantinou, 36, is from Long Island; his mother immigrated from Costa Rica, his father from Cyprus. Together, they form a typical New York City melting-pot family.
The couple met at a speed-dating event in 2001 and have been together ever since. With his easygoing, fluid manner and quick smile, it’s no surprise that Constantinou found success young as a bartender and restaurant manager. Lancheros was reluctant to relinquish his 9-to-5 paycheck, but after a trip to Colombia where they sampled the local cuisine, Constantinou convinced him they ought to follow his dream and open their own restaurant.
Thus was born Bogota Latin Bistro in Park Slope, Brooklyn, on July 5, 2005. The place turned a profit almost immediately and has become one of the most popular, successful Latin-themed eateries in the five boroughs.
Their twins, Gustavo and Milena, were born Nov. 6, 2011, and they were able to attend the birth. “They are a delight–healthy, happy, and they both sleep through the night,” said Constantinou. “They’re 7 and a half months old and are the most amazing babies–all smiles, they only cry when they’re hungry, they want to be picked up or they’re teething. Yesterday we had a first: Milena cried when we left for work.”
“In light of the fact that we’re both men, our pediatrician said she’s never met two calmer parents,” Lancheros said. “The restaurant is incredible training for that. Stuff happens and you manage, you forge ahead. I’ll tell you what: These two babies are a piece of cake compared to running a restaurant.”
Anyone who questions a gay couple’s suitability to marriage and raising kids need only glimpse Constantinou and Lancheros in action to sense not only the open, energetic, exuberant and humorous approach they take to negotiating the challenges of sustaining a relationship and becoming responsible, loving parents, but also the underlying seriousness and honesty of their commitment to the endeavor. But don’t trust this account; go online and check out Constantinou and Lancheros for yourself in their own words–and smiles.