April 26, 2018

Prominent gay rights' attorney dead after apparent self-immolation, police say

16 April 2018, 12:04 | Taylor George

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"My name is David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide", the hand-written message read.

Buckel was found when firefighters responded to reports of a fire in Prospect Park, the police spokesperson said.

As reported by the New York Times, Buckel's suicide note explained that in recent years the attorney had been moved by environmental causes. "I apologize to you for the mess".

'My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves'.

Buckel went on from that case to work for Lambda Legal, a national LGBT rights organization that mourned his death Saturday in a statement on its website.

Buckel said he wanted his death to lead to increased action, writing: "Honorable objective in life invites honorable goal in death".

Buckel was the lead attorney in a lawsuit that involved Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in Nebraska. "Honorable goal in life invites honorable objective in death", he wrote, according to his note.

More recently, some Tibetans used self-immolation to protest China ruling over Tibet, and Buckel cited the Tibetans' self-immolation in his note, writing, "This is not new, as many have chosen to give a life based on the view that no other action can most meaningfully address the harm they see".

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'Here is a hope that giving a life might bring some attention to the need for expanded actions, and help others give a voice to our home, and Earth is heard'.

Buckel's self immolation led to passerby's expressing shock and horror upon coming across the man's charred corpse.

In addition, he also fought against the Boy Scouts of America and their ban on gay leaders, against a Utah high school for not allowing a gay student club, and against the state of Pennsylvania for a woman's right to sign her late lover's tombstone with "beloved life partner". That court battle was so influential that Hilary Swank played Teena in the Oscar award winning film Boys Don't Cry.

A second note was also found at the scene, though this one was typed.

More recently, Buckel worked as an urban gardener and ecologist with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, helping run what he called the largest composting program in the country to use only renewable sources of energy.

"He deserves tremendous thanks for recognizing this was in many ways at the heart of what it meant to be gay for many Americans and making it a priority", Susan Sommer, a former attorney at Lambda Legal, told the Times. "He knew his craft and his trade and was strategic in how to build the blocks toward a sweeping victory".

Lambda's Camilla Taylor described Mr Buckel as a "legal visionary".

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