Newseum adds student’s sign to its collection

same-sex marriage

Melissa Wasser, a junior political science major at YSU, holds a sign that she made in favor of same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, collection staff from the Newseum in Washington, D.C., asked Wasser to donate her sign for a future exhibit. Photo by Jordan D. Uhl/The Jambar.

While outside the U.S. Supreme Court waiting to hear oral arguments on same-sex marriage, Melissa Wasser, a political science major at Youngstown State University, held up a sign that read, “My parents’ marriage used to be illegal too.”

Her sign received attention from the Newseum, the museum of news in Washington, D.C.

Two Newseum employees approached Wasser on Tuesday and asked her to donate the sign to the museum’s archives.

Jonathan Thompson, the Newseum’s manager of media relations, said the museum has a special interest in the First Amendment’s contributions to the media. The First Amendment guarantees U.S. citizens the freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition.

“The act of what these folks are doing today in front of the Supreme Court shows Americans exercising a right that others cannot enjoy,” Thompson said. “These assemblies mesh well with the Newseum’s effort to show why the First Amendment is important.”

Wasser said her sign shows how concepts of marriage have changed in the past.

“My sign refers to the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case of 1967, which protected interracial marriage,” Wasser said.

She added that the sign also served as a response to opponents of same-sex marriage, like protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church. “I was right next to Shirley Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church,” Wasser said. “I was counter-protesting them.”

Thompson said Wasser’s sign likely caught the eye of the Newseum’s collection staff because of its bright colors, important message and historic significance.

Wasser traveled to Washington, D.C., with James Toliver and Sean Varsho, both political science majors at YSU. The students plan to include their experiences in their senior theses, which deal with same-sex marriage.

Wasser said she is “really excited to be in D.C.,” and she called the experience “historic.”

“We will get to see oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act case,” Wasser said. “And we got to meet CNN’s legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.”

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences gave Wasser, Toliver and Varsho $1,000 to fund their trip to Washington, D.C. Wasser said she appreciates the financial assistance.

“I don’t think I could have had this great a time without CLASS’s help,” she said.