It all began when Rev. Michael Tupper's daughter asked him to officiate her 2015 wedding to another woman. Tupper, a pastor of the Parchment United Methodist Church in Michigan, knows that his denomination strictly prohibits same-sex marriage. Still, out of love for his daughter, Tupper defied the United Methodist Church's doctrine and performed the ceremony in the summer of 2015.
In response, the United Methodist Church (UMC) filed a complaint against Tupper for officiating the same-sex marriage. He says the event opened his eyes to the mistreatment of LGBT members in his church.
Tupper is protesting his church's opposition to LGBT rights by sleeping outside of his Michigan home in a tent for 175 days. He began the protest on November 30, and he says he will continue until his church becomes more inclusive to LGBTQ members.
"It's to symbolize how our church —particularly the United Methodist Church — is pushing LGBT people outside," he told ThinkProgress. "It symbolizes how we push LGBT people out of the church and into the cold."
Tupper spends every cold winter night outside the tent starting at 9:30 p.m. and goes back into his house at 6:30 a.m.
"I've got a sleeping bag inside another sleeping bag and that helps keep it warm," he told the Kalamazoo Gazette.
The UMC says that the practice of homosexuality "is incompatible with Christian teaching." However, views within the church are slowly changing. Since the 2015 Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, more UMC members disagree with the homosexuality ban. A petition to call for the removal of the ban gained over 1,000 signatures.
In May, the UMC will host a national conference. Among the topics potentially up for a vote will be the status of the same-sex marriage ban. Tupper hopes to persuade the delegates at the conference to support LGBTQ inclusion. Until then, he doesn't mind sleeping outside in the cold.
"It's a very small sacrifice to pay compared to the experience that my daughter and other LGBTQ people have had in the church… the rejection they've experienced is so much more than my little physical discomfort," he told ThinkProgress. "It's a God thing… I'm willing to do it for my daughter."