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Prominent LGBT rights lawyer dies after setting himself on fire

15 April 2018

Gay rights attorney David Buckel died in Prospect Park in New York City on Saturday after he burned himself to death.

The remains of David Buckel, 60, were found by civilians passing through the NY park, and police say he was pronounced dead at around 6:30 a.m EST.

In a suicide note left near his body, Buckel said he had used "fossil fuel" to ignite the fire and wanted his death to symbolize what humans are doing to Earth, the New York Daily News reported.

"A life of privilege requires actions to balance the harm caused, and the greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility", Buckel added.

Buckel acted as lead counsel on behalf of the family of Brandon Teena, a transgender Nebraska man raped and murdered in 1993.

Buckel, who lived near the park, was a renowned lawyer and activist who worked with the Marriage Project for the gay civil rights group Lambda Legal.

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The note also stated that "Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather".

David Buckel's suicide notes were left inside an envelope labeled "for the police" placed inside a garbage bag left inside a shopping cart near the body.

The New York Times said it received an emailed copy of the note, which also said, "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".

"This is a tremendous loss for our Lambda Legal family, but also for the entire movement for social justice", she said in a statement.

"My name is David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide", the hand-written message read. "A lifetime of service may best be preserved by giving a life". "Honorable goal in life invites honorable objective in death", he wrote, according to his note.

Buckel's self immolation led to passerby's expressing shock and horror upon coming across the man's charred corpse.

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Teena's life was later adapted into the 1999 film, "Boys Don't Cry".

Buckel ran the NYC Composting Project out of Red Hook Community Farm.

Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal's acting legal director, said in a statement that Buckel was a "brilliant legal visionary" who was universally kind to all he worked with.

The 1987 Cornell Law School graduate argued during his career against the Boy Scout ban on gays and for the establishment of a gay student club at a Utah high school.

"The decision vindicated David's firm belief that we could win such cases even in the heartland, and propelled us to victories elsewhere", Taylor said of the case. "We were a little freaked out", the jogger told the Daily News.

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Prominent LGBT rights lawyer dies after setting himself on fire