Gay rights lawyer dies after setting self on fire

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David Buckel
David Buckel

David Buckel, a prominent gay rights attorney, set himself on fire in Brooklyn, NY on Saturday morning. A note said it was a final act of protest on environmental issues. Buckel, who led lawsuits to legalize same-sex marriage, was found near Prospect Park’s baseball fields.

Found near the body was a suicide note. It said: “I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide. I apologize to you for the mess.”

He also e-mailed copies of another note found to local news outlets. He wrote his self-immolation is a call to action against pollution and fossil fuels. “Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather. Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

He was well-known for his work to legalize same-sex marriages in Iowa and New Jersey. He was the marriage project director for Lambda Legal. Buckel’s direction has changed to environmental causes in recent times. Buckel worked on a high profile case on behalf of Brandon Teena. Teena was a transgender man who was raped and murdered in Nebraska in 1993.

“This is a tremendous loss for our Lambda Legal family but also for the entire movement for social justice,” said Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s acting legal director, in a statement. “David was an indefatigable attorney and advocate, and also a dedicated and loving friend to so many. He is remembered for his kindness, devotion and vision for justice.”

“As a champion of LGBTQ rights, David Buckel changed our country for the better,” said Laura Pople, Jersey Pride chair. “From his advocacy for marriage equality to his work on James Dale’s discrimination case against the Boy Scouts, David was a true ally in our work for full equality in New Jersey. His death is shocking, deliberately so. The last message from this passionate environmental activist and LGBT advocate exhorts us all to live less selfish lives, more aware of our impact on each other and our planet.”