Prominent gay rights lawyer sets himself on fire in protest suicide

File photo if Attorney David S. Buckel Source: AP POOL A prominent American lawyer and gay rights activist has died after setting himself on fire at a New York park to protest damage being done to the planet, according to US media reports.

David Buckel, 60, was pronounced dead after he self-immolated at Brooklyns Prospect Park early on Saturday, the New York Times reported.

In a suicide note emailed to the newspaper and several other media outlets, Buckel wrote that he had used fossil fuel to symbolise what was happening to the planet.

“His thoughtful and engaging advocacy broke through many stubborn misconceptions and showed it was possible and necessary for our movement to speak up for bullied, ostracised LGBT young people”, she said in a statement to the Huffington Post. David was an indefatigable attorney and advocate, and also a dedicated and loving friend to so many. Our hearts go out to all who knew him.

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” the note said.

Buckel had a leading role in crucial same-sex marriage cases in New Jersey and Iowa, while he served as marriage project director and senior counsel at Lambda Legal – which is a national organization that fights for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Prominent Lawyer Dies After Setting Self On Fire In Prospect Park

“Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

Friends said that after he left the organization, Mr. Buckel became involved in environmental causes, which he alluded to in his note as the reason he made a decision to end his life by self-immolation with fossil fuels.

Attorney David S. Buckel makes arguments in favor of gay marriage, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006, during oral arguments seeking marriage for same sex couples at the New Jersey Supreme Court in Trenton, N.J.  (AP PHOTO/JOSE F. MORENO)

Attorney David S. Buckel makes arguments in favor of gay marriage, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006, during oral arguments seeking marriage for same sex couples at the New Jersey Supreme Court in Trenton, N.J.  (AP PHOTO/JOSE F. MORENO)

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) – A well-known gay rights lawyer and environmental advocate appeared to have burned himself to death in New York City on Saturday in a grisly protest against ecological destruction, police said. The charred remains of 60-year-old David Buckel were found by passers-by in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. 

In a suicide note emailed to the newspaper and several other media outlets, Buckel wrote that he had used fossil fuel to symbolise what was happening to the planet.

Police told the Associated Press he was pronounced dead at about 6:30 a.m. While it appeared he burned himself to death, the NYPD said the cause of death is still under investigation. 

He had recently worked with several environmental groups, according to HuffPost, including volunteering with the Added Value Red Hook Community Farm.

The Daily News reports that Buckel left a suicide note in a shopping cart near his body that said he hoped his death was "honorable" and "might serve others."

Camilla Taylor, who is the current director of Lambda Legal, told the HuffPost that they will honor his life by “continuing to fight for equality”.

The New York Times said it received an emailed copy of the note, which also said, "Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result – my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves." 

Buckel was the lead attorney in in a lawsuit involving Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in Nebraska. Hilary Swank won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Teena in the 1999 movie "Boys Don't Cry."

Buckel also served as marriage project director at Lambda Legal, a national organization that fights for LGBT rights, where he was the strategist behind same-sex marriage cases in New Jersey and Iowa.

Susan Sommer, a former Lambda Legal attorney who is now the general counsel for the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice in New York City, told the Times that Buckel "was all about justice, but he was also all about what it means to be human."

Sommer added, "He was a very smart and methodical lawyer. He knew his craft and his trade and was strategic in how to build the blocks toward a sweeping victory."

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