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Found in Brooklyn's Prospect Park

Prominent gay rights lawyer's suicide

Posted 4/19/18

David S. Buckel died April 14, 2018 after setting himself on fire in a Brooklyn park, NYC police said.

Jeffery C. Matsapril of The New york Times reported April 14 that David S. Buckel, 60, a …

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Found in Brooklyn's Prospect Park

Prominent gay rights lawyer's suicide

Posted

David S. Buckel died April 14, 2018 after setting himself on fire in a Brooklyn park, NYC police said.

Jeffery C. Matsapril of The New York Times reported April 14 that David S. Buckel, 60, a lawyer nationally known for being a champion of gay rights died after setting himself on fire in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. He left a note exhorting people to lead less selfish lives as a way to protect the planet, the police said.

Buckel’s remains were found near Prospect Park West in a field near baseball diamonds and the main loop used by joggers and bikers.

His note was left in a shopping cart not far from his body. He also emailed it to several news media outlets, including The New York Times.

Buckel was the lead attorney in Brandon v. County of Richardson, in which a Nebraska county sheriff was found liable for failing to protect Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in Falls City, Neb. Hilary Swank won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Mr. Teena in the 1999 movie “Boys Don’t Cry.”

While serving as marriage project director and senior counsel at Lambda Legal, a national organization that fights for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Mr. Buckel was the strategist behind important same-sex marriage cases in New Jersey and Iowa.

Friends said that after he left the organization, Mr. Buckel became involved in environmental causes, which he alluded to in his note as the reason he decided to end his life by self-immolation with fossil fuels.

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” he wrote in the email sent 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.”

In his note, Buckel discussed the difficulty of improving the world even for those who make vigorous efforts to do so. Privilege, he said, was derived from the suffering of others.

“Many who drive their own lives to help others often realize that they do not change what causes the need for their help,” Buckel wrote, adding that donating to organizations was not enough.

Noting that he was privileged with “good health to the final moment,” Mr. Buckel said he wanted his death to lead to increased action. “Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death,” he wrote.

Buckel was pronounced dead at 6:30 a.m. in what police said was a suicide.