On April 14, dedicated LGBTQ and conservational activist David Buckel set himself on fire in Brooklyn as a means to protest the harm inflicted on the environment.
After leaving a note pleading for action to be taken, the nationally-known civil rights lawyer’s remains were found near Prospect Park West, a well-known park used by the local community.
“A life of privilege requires actions to balance the harm caused, and the greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility.” – David Buckel. A prominent LGBT rights lawyer died after setting himself on fire in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on Saturday. He took his own life in protest. #restinpower #davidbuckel #lgbtq
According to the New York Daily News, Buckel left a handwritten note in a shopping cart near his body: “I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide … I apologize to you for the mess.” A second, longer-note was left as well, which he emailed to several news media outlets, including The New York Times ,right before his death.
“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” he wrote. “Most humans on the planet now breath 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 … Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death.”
As a champion of gay rights, he was celebrated for directing history-defining cases in his role as the marriage project director for Lambda Legal, a non-profit committed to achieving civil rights for LGBTQ and HIV-positive folks. The major cases he worked on in Iowa and New Jersey proved that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional.
The news of David Buckel’s death is heartbreaking. This is a tremendous loss for our Lambda Legal family, but also for the entire movement for social justice. https://t.co/SL9XZ2cYTR
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) April 14, 2018
Buckel also worked on a lawsuit involving Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was raped and murdered in Falls City, Nebraska, in 1993. CNN reported that the case, Brandon v. County of Richardson, found that a Nebraska county sheriff failed to protect Brandon and the circumstance was eventually turned into the 1999 movie, Boys Don’t Cry.
This man, David Buckel, helped me find my path in fighting for marriage equality. Thank you @Camillabtaylor for finding words of comfort in the face of this incomprehensible loss. https://t.co/a89SnXFtZ1
— Jim Bennett (@steelbennett) April 15, 2018
Apart from supporting queer rights, in his late career he focused his energies towards climate preservation by serving as senior Organics Recovery Coordinator for the NYC Compost Project. This focus ultimately led the 60-year-old attorney to end his life by self-immolation.
“I hope it is an honorable death that might serve others,” he wrote. Known for his devotion to justice, leadership, and persistence to protect the earth, David Buckel, will be remembered as a prominent figure in civil rights and environmental history, even if the choice to end his own life is debated.