Most of the January 2 front page for The Washington Post was devoted to the resolution of the so-called fiscal cliff, but editors made sure to leave space for a gauzy 33-paragraph story entitled "History at the altar: Maryland sees wave of same-sex weddings as law takes effect."
By contrast, an uplifting story involving a non-controversial religious tradition in African-American churches was shuffled to the bottom of page A2, despite the tremendous historical significance of the 2012 New Year's Eve "watch night" celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
"The road to same-sex marriage in Maryland passed through Annapolis and a divisive statewide referendum before reaching a small inn down a windy spit of land in the Chesapeake Bay, where Ruth Siegel wept as she wed Nina Nethery on New Year's Day," Post staffer Michael Laris began his story, going on to note that couple "wore matching white suits and blouses" as well as "custom baseball caps with "Bride One" and "Bride Two" emblazoned on them. Siegel and Nethery graced an accompanying photo on the front page, while a homosexual couple and another lesbian couple were featured in photos on the jump page, where a caption noted readers can go online to see more photos at the Post's website.
While Laris cheered the fact that gay couples could "celebrate their new civil right," it's telling that Post editors opted to put a fascinating Reuters article about African-American church "watch night" services at the bottom of page A2, although, as the subheadline noted, the "Tradition at black churches dates to 'Freedom Eve' in 1862."
Harriet McLeod of Reuters gave readers a 15-paragraph look at one such church service held on Monday, December 31, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., "recalling the vigils held by blacks 150 years ago as they awaited President Abraham Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation."
"It's not just an African-American celebration, it's an American celebration, akin to the Fourth of July," McLeod quoted the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. "It's freedom come full circle."
Rev. Pinckney is correct. The African-American church tradition of "watch night" is a thoroughly patriotic celebration that can be appreciated by non-Christian Americans even though at its heart, the service is a religious one.
Rather than bringing all Post readers together to ring in the new year with front-page real estate devoted to the intersection of American history with the African-American spiritual traditions, the paper's editors elected to highlight same-sex unions which are still opposed by most religious faiths, including a great number of observant African-American Christians.