Gay rights lawyer David Buckel set himself on fire in protest suicide

By Daniel Uria  |  April 15, 2018 at 6:22 PM
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April 15 (UPI) -- Nationally known gay rights lawyer David S. Buckel died after setting himself on fire in New York on Saturday morning in a protest against destructive ecological practices.

Firefighters found the remains of Buckel, 60, near Brooklyn's Prospect Park when they responded to a blaze in the area at 6:40 a.m., according to the New York Daily News.

"I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide," Buckel wrote in a note left near the site where his body was found. "I apologize to you for the mess."

Buckel also placed a longer note in an envelope addressed to the police and emailed copies to news outlets including the New York Times, describing the act as a call to action for environmental conservation.

"Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather," Buckel wrote. "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 of Buckel's said he became involved in environmental causes after leaving Lambda Legal, a national organization that fights for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, where he served as marriage project director and senior counsel.

While working for Lambda Legal he directed several major same-sex marriage cases in Iowa and New Jersey.

"David was an indefatigable attorney and advocate, and also a dedicated and loving friend to so many. He will be remembered for his kindness, devotion, and vision for justice," Lambda Legal said in a statement Saturday.

He also served as lead attorney for Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was raped and murdered in Falls City, Neb., in 1993.

The case Brandon vs. County of Richardson, in which a Nebraska county sheriff was found liable for failing to protect Teena, was the subject of the 1999 film Boys Don't Cry.

In his note Buckel wrote he was in "good health to the final moment" and hoped his death would lead to increased action to protect the environment.

"Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death," he wrote.

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