Famed US lawyer burns himself alive to protest global warming

Courtesy of Moakley Archive & Institute

A lawyer who burned himself to death in a grisly protest against ecological destruction was a nationally known gay rights advocate and lead attorney in a famous case involving transgender murder victim Brandon Teena.

The body of David S. Buckel, 60, was found near Prospect Park's baseball fields about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday after a passerby reported a severely burned individual, the New York Police Department said.

A suicide note near the lawyer's remains said he had immolated himself using fossil fuel to symbolize the damage humans are doing to the Earth.

Apart from this, Buckel also served as a director for a project to promote marriage equality and a senior counsel at Lambda Legal.

"Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather", Buckel wrote. Buckel emailed copies of the note to several news organizations, including the New York 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", he added in the letter he sent to the media outlets just before his death.

The Times reports that one of the cases Buckel spearheaded, Nabozny v. Podlesny, was the first time a federal court ruled that schools have an obligation to prevent the bullying of gay students, said Camilla Taylor, acting legal director at Lambda Legal.

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"My name is David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide", read a hand-written message left at the scene.

In a statement, the organization said he had won several key court victories including in the Lewis v Harris case, in which the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized the harm done to same-sex couples and their children from being excluded from the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

Buckel's self immolation led to passerby's expressing shock and horror upon coming across the man's charred corpse. He also served in an official capacity on the NYC Compost Project at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is right next to Prospect Park. "We will honor his life by continuing his fight for a better world", Taylor added. "Honorable goal in life invites honorable objective in death", he wrote, according to his note.

A county sheriff was found negligent in the killing for his failure to protect Teena from his rapists - who returned and killed him once he went to authorities.

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

"David was a brilliant legal visionary". "We were a little freaked out", the jogger told the Daily News. But he was best known as a champion of gay rights.

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