These gay dads own a successful French-inspired bakery and restaurant located in historic Charlottesville, Virginia. Chef Jason Becton, 41, lives in Charlottesville (where Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello is situated) with his baker husband Patrick Evans, 36, and their two daughters, Marian and Betty; they together are the owners of MarieBette, a popular bakery-restaurant in downtown Charlottesville that specializes in European foods, especially in delicious pastries from France. "Our business has become a gathering place for Charlottesvillians and we feel very welcomed here," shared Patrick. "The majority of people know that it is a business owned by two men married to each other with two kids."
"We both always saw ourselves as parents eventually," said dad of two, Jason Becton. "Though parenting is a LOT of hard work, it has been very rewarding and it has brought out sides of ourselves that we never even knew existed," he continued. "It has also changed the way I see my husband; there is something about the way that he interacts with our daughters that makes me love him more and feel closer to him than before we had kids."
But before they were a family of four, delighting the locals with their European inspired menu, the two met 11 years ago at culinary school. It was Jason's last day and he was cleaning out his locker, and Patrick was getting ready for class. "We didn't talk; we just made a lot of eye contact and smiled at each other a lot," described Jason. "Patrick left a Craigslist "missed connection" and my friend saw it and told me about it." It was a little while before the two officially started dating but once they did, Jason explains it as feeling like the most natural thing he'd ever felt in life.
The two were married on May 23, 2009.
Patrick and Jason, who were living in New Jersey at the time, were encouraged to try foster-adopt from friends who had become parents through the foster care system to three biological siblings. Their eldest daughter Marian came to them at just five days old. "The process was a little emotionally difficult at times but after about a year and half of having her in our home we were allowed to adopt her," shared Patrick.
In hindsight, the dads found adoption through foster care a fraught experience. "There are people who are struggling with serious life challenges who have their kids taken away for various reasons," explained Jason. "For foster parents going into it with the aim of adoption, you have to respect the process and try to respect the parents dealing with their issues. It's difficult because you have this child in the middle who you love and want the best for and navigating what is best for the child at different points in the process is tricky."
At the end of the process, the dads knew that the best place for their daughter Marian was with them and though they couldn't have been happier, they were also acutely aware that there were people who were not so happy. "Throughout the process we had some great social workers who supported us. We were very lucky."
As they were planning their move, the dads decided to look into private adoption as, at that time, they could not adopt in Virginia. Less than five weeks after meeting with their private adoption lawyer, they met their second daughter Betty who was born in Baltimore.
Their advice to future gay dads: get to know your social workers. "We didn't just talk to social workers from our county, we networked and looked into fostering children from other counties," said Patrick. Both dads recommend finding support groups, social workers and other foster parents to turn to if you have questions or need guidance. Also, if someone was to go the private adoption route, find a lawyer with experience working with other LGBTQ families.
"Adoption was always the natural choice for us," said Jason. "While we respect all of the choices that LGBTQ individuals and families make when starting families, we never seriously considered any other way to start our family."
When the family moved from New Jersey to Virginia in 2014, marriage equality hadn't happened yet, and Virginia was a state where their marriage disappeared when they crossed the state line. Though their adoptions were completed by then, they still had some concerns about what that would mean for their family. Fortunately for them and for the country, marriage equality became a reality in Virginia in 2014 and across the country in 2015.
Patrick, Jason and their girls call Charlottesville home, and they feel they will for sometime to come. Aside from all the other aspects of their lives, such as the opening and daily operations of their restaurant, the husbands recognize how fatherhood has enriched their lives deeply, more so than they ever imagined. They've learned patience, flexibility, and infinite love. Their two daughters challenge and inspire them with their unique personalities: Marian, with her strong will, confidence and independent nature; and Betty, who is the kindest, gentlest and most imaginative person the dads know. They are hugely proud of their daughters.
They say, "There's an emotional honesty and vulnerability that gets revealed when you take care of a child and it's beautiful."