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LGBT rights lawyer David Buckel dies after setting himself on fire

The 60-year-old's body was found in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York

By Fabio Crispim

A former Lambda lawyer has died after setting himself on fire in a New York park. 

David S. Buckel, who fought for marriage equality and the rights of LGBT youth, died on Saturday after setting himself on fire in protest over fossil fuel use and the damage it causes. 

The 60-year-old’s body was found in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, and pronounced dead at 6.30 am. Police have called his death a suicide. 

According to the New York Times, Buckel had left a note in a shopping cart close to his body and had emailed it to several news media outlets, including the New York Times, at around 5.55 am. 

The note read: “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.”

Buckel also stated that donating to organisations wasn’t enough to help improve the world. He wrote: “Many who drive their own lives to help others often realise that they do not change what causes the need for their help.”

He finished the note by stating that he wanted his death to lead to an increased action: “Honourable purposes in life honourable purpose in death.”

Before focusing on environmental causes, Buckel worked as the marriage project director for Lambda Legal and persuaded the organisation to file a suit for marriage rights in Iowa in 2015, a time when Massachusetts was the only state that allowed same-sex couples to marry.

In 2009, Iowa became the third state to legalise same-sex marriage. Buckel also led Lambda Legal’s work to secure justice for the murder of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was brutally raped and murdered after police failed to intervene. 

In a statement, Camilla Taylor, the acting legal director at Lambda Legal, said: “It was considered a crazy thing to do because of the notion that Iowa would get to marriage equality before places like New York and New Jersey.” 

“Our thoughts and condolences go out to all those who loved David. We have lost a movement leader, a colleague, and a friend.”

She added: “We will honour his life by continuing his fight for a better world.”