Prominent Lawyer David Buckel Dies After Setting Himself on Fire to Protest Environmental Destruction

The LGBTQ rights attorney was pronounced dead after a passerby spotted his charred remains in a Brooklyn park, according to multiple reports

A prominent LGBTQ rights lawyer and environmental advocate was found dead in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park early Saturday morning after setting himself on fire in protest against the use of fossil fuels, according to multiple reports.

David Buckel, 60, was pronounced dead at about 6:30 a.m. after a passerby spotted his charred remains in a Brooklyn park, police told the Associated Press.

The New York City Police Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Getty Images

The New York Times reported that the newspaper and several media outlets received a copy of Buckel’s suicide note from him via email, which was also left at the scene on a nearby shopping cart.

In the note, Buckel allegedly stated that he did the act as a protest to draw attention to the destruction of the environment.

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” Buckel wrote, according to the Times. “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 also wrote that he lived with “good health to the final moment” and hoped his death would spark action, the newspaper reported

“Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death,” he said, according to the New York Times.

Lambda Legal, a firm where Buckel was formerly marriage project director and senior counsel, issued a statement mourning the death on Saturday.

“This is a tremendous loss for our Lambda Legal family, but also for the entire movement for social justice,” said Camilla Taylor, director of constitutional litigation and acting legal director. “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.”

Hilary Swank - News
Fox Searcchlight Pictures

Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry

Buckel was best known as the lead attorney in Brandon v. County of Richardson, a case in which a Nebraska county sheriff was found liable for failing to protect Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was raped and murdered at age 21 in 1993. The story was later turned into the film 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry starring Hilary Swank, who earned an Academy Award for her performance as Teena.

The lawyer also spearheaded same-sex marriage cases in a number of states across the country.

“He championed filing a marriage lawsuit in state court in Iowa in 2005, at a time when only Massachusetts permitted same-sex couples to marry. When the Iowa Supreme Court delivered us a unanimous victory in 2009, Iowa was only the third state in the country where same-sex couples could marry,” said Taylor. “The decision vindicated David’s firm belief that we could win such cases even in the heartland, and propelled us to victories elsewhere.”

Related Articles