Originally published Dec. 2, 2018.
In a historic part of Charlottesville, Virginia, you can find a beautiful French-inspired bakery and restaurant run by two gay dads; Chef Jason Becton and his husband, baker Patrick Evans.
"The majority of people know that it is a business owned by two men married to each other with two kids," Jason said. "Our business has become a gathering place for Charlottesvillians and we feel very welcomed here."
When they're not busy running their eatery MarieBette, a popular bakery-restaurant in downtown Charlottesville that specializes in European foods, Patrick and Jason are kept plenty busy with their two girls.
In fact, MarieBette is named after their daughters; Marian and Betty, who joined their family through the foster care system.
"We both always saw ourselves as parents eventually," Jason said. "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."
"Parenting has also changed the way I see my husband," Jason added. "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 at culinary school. It was 2007, and it was Jason's last day. 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," Jason described. "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 said it felt like the most natural thing he'd ever felt in life.
The two were married on May 23th, 2009.
Patrick and Jason were living in New Jersey at the time, and they were encouraged to try foster-adopt from friends who had become parents to three biological siblings through the foster care system.
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, but worth it all in the end.
"There are people who are struggling with serious life challenges who have their kids taken away for various reasons," Patrick said. "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. "Throughout the process we had some great social workers who supported us," Patrick said. "We were very lucky."
As they were planning their move, the dads decided to look into private adoption because, 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.
The couple's advice to future gay dads is to 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 essentially 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 now call Charlottesville home, and they feel they will for some time 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 said 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.
"There's an emotional honesty and vulnerability that gets revealed when you take care of a child," Jason said. "And it's beautiful."