The body of gay civil rights attorney David S. Buckel was discovered in Prospect Park this weekend. Buckel took his own life by setting himself on fire, sending a suicide note to various media outlets.
Buckel was a well known champion for gay rights, and was a lead attorney in the case surrounding Brandon Teena, a transgender teenager who was murdered in Nebraska whose story inspired the film Boys Don't Cry. Buckel is also credited by colleagues as a leader in the legal battle for marriage equality — he was a senior attorney at Lambda Legal's Marriage Project.
As reported by the New York Times, Buckel's suicide note explained that in recent years the attorney had been moved by environmental causes. His choice to take his life with aid of fossil fuels was a pointed statement about humanity's treatment of the planet.
“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,” read his email to the Times.
“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. “I learned so much from him about the emotional center of what it means for a gay person not to be able to have all the protections for the person they love and that it’s worth fighting for.”