Double the dad: Sons welcome second father into family

Arron Benson’s sons have always called his partner by his first name, John.

On June 14, when Benson and John Constantino are set to be married in California, that will probably change to reflect the role he took on seven years ago. The children will call him “Dad.”

“We didn’t want the kids to feel any pressure to call me anything they weren’t comfortable with,” Constantino said. “After three years, when Evan was 6, he asked me when we were going to get married so I would be his dad.”

Evan and Blake are Benson’s biological children from a previous marriage, but Constantino speaks of their accomplishments with parental pride.

“They’re amazing kids,” Constantino said. “They’re kind and responsible. They get good grades.”

Constantino had always been open to the idea of parenthood, but when he was growing up, he felt that coming out of the closet usually meant closing that particular door.

“I was 33 when I moved in with Arron, which seems a little late to become a father,” he said. “I’d always desired to be a father but wasn’t sure how that was going to come about.”

The couple have always tried to make sure that the children’s concerns and welfare were a primary consideration. When they moved in together, they asked the children’s permission.

“We put the kids first,” Constantino said. “Everything that we do is to set them up to be successful. We keep a consistent schedule and eat dinner together as a family every night.”

The pair have white-collar jobs, and Constantino’s takes him on the road a bit, so their schedule has to be adjusted for that.

Aside from his employment, Benson is also a board member of The Center. In his position there, he has heard firsthand accounts from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have dealt with hatred and discrimination, but he and Costantino said they are happy to report that their family rarely encounters it.

“Sometimes people will see me with the kids at the grocery store or something, and then Arron will come up and put his arm around me,” Constantino said. “Occasionally, you see a little look of surprise, that they hadn’t made that connection before, but I think because of the neighborhood we live in, we don’t have to deal with negative reactions very often. The people who live around us are great.”

The only example they can easily recall is from their first year together, when they shared coaching duties for a Tee Ball team, and one of the parents expressed disapproval to some of the other parents.

“For the most part, everyone’s been great,” Benson said. “We’re still friends with several of the couples from the team.”

The duo faces the same challenges many couples with children face after a divorce. Scheduling has to be worked out with the children’s mother and her partner, who share custody of Blake and Evan. They try to keep as stable and consistent a life as they can, making sure the kids have time to play and relax but ensuring that they know their responsibilities and keep on top of them and their homework.

“The proud moments for us are when they’re making good decisions and following through,” Benson said. “It’s great to see them experience things for the first time, to watch them grow. We love those fun times too, like when we just sit down and play games.”

Constantino and Benson think their kids are great, but they’re pleasantly surprised when someone else points that out to them.

“We see our kids as kids, with all of the crazy things that they do, so it’s nice to be reminded once in a while that we’re on track,” Constantino said. “It’s great when other parents validate that.”

While marriage equality laws haven’t passed in Nevada, the pair seems confident that it’s only a matter of time.

“The way that laws are passed here, it can’t happen until at least 2016,” Benson said. “There’s still a lot of work to do, but more and more states are getting it done.”

Benson and Constantino’s families live in California, where same-sex marriage is legal, so when they take their vows, they will be surrounded by friends and family, including their children.

“It’s been a blessing how things worked out,” Constantino said.

Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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