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Gay rights lawyer David Buckel dies after setting himself on fire

He left a suicide note saying he was protesting fossil fuel

Gay rights lawyer David Buckel dies after setting himself on fire
Gay rights lawyer David Buckel. | Photo: Added Value / YouTube

Police found the remains of prominent gay rights lawyer David Buckel in Prospect Park in Brooklyn early Saturday (14 April) morning.

Authorities also found a suicide note left in a cart not far from the body. Buckel also sent the note in an email to news media outlets like the New York Times.

He wrote in the email: ‘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 a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves,’ he said.

It is understood he wanted his death to mean increased action against fossil fuels. He said: ‘Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death.’

David Buckel was a former Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director. He led the organization’s work nationwide seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

He was also the lead attorney in Brandon v. County of Richardson. This was a landmark case in which he successfully brought murdered transgender man Brandon Teena to justice.

‘We have lost a movement leader’

Condolences flooded social media in the aftermath of the news of David Buckel’s death.

Camilla Taylor from Lambda Legal said in a statement: ‘The news of David’s death is heartbreaking. This is a tremendous loss for our Lambda Legal family, but also for the entire movement for social justice.

‘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,’ she said.

Professor Ellen Anderson said on Twitter: ‘I knew David Buckel from his time Lambda Legal. He was a lovely, kind, fiercely intelligent man. I’m shocked and saddened by this news.’

Gay rights advocate Jim Bennett said: ‘This man, David Buckel, helped me find my path in fighting for marriage equality.’

Sharon McGowan from Lambda Legal tweeted: ‘As a young lawyer at the ACLU, I learned so much from David Buckel, one of the giants of Lambda Legal with whom I had the honor of co-counseling a challenge to Nebraska’s “super DOMA.” This is heartbreaking news.


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