Famed Gay Rights Lawyer Dies by Suicide by Setting Himself on Fire

Gay rights attorney David Buckel died in Prospect Park in New York City on Saturday after he burned himself to death. He was 60 years old.

The New York Fire Department found Buckel early Saturday morning after receiving a report of a fire in the Brooklyn public park. A suicide note read that Buckel used a "fossil fuel" to commit the suicide, indicating the action was done as a type of ecological protest.

"My name is David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide," the hand-written message read. "I apologize to you for the mess."

Buckel made a name for himself by working with the gay civil rights group Lambda Legal for the Marriage Project. He also worked with the NYC Compost Project as an ecological activist.

In 1993, he served as the lead attorney for the lawsuit involving the murder of transgender teenager Brandon Teena. The case was turned into Hilary Swank movie, Boys Don't Cry in 1999.

Some of his other more prolific cases include arguing against the Boys Scouts of America's ban on homosexual members, fighting for the creation of an LGBTQ club at a high school in Utah and helping a Pennsylvania woman win a lawsuit over being allowed to put "beloved life partner" as an epitaph over her deceased partner.

A second note was also found at the scene, though this one was typed.

"My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves," Buckel wrote. "A lifetime of service may best be preserved by giving a life ... Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purchase in death. I hope it is an honorable death that might serve others."

The two notes were found inside a garbage bag inside a shopping cart near his body.

"This is not new, as many have chose to give a life based on the view that no other action can most meaningfully address the harm they see," he wrote. "Here is a hope that giving a life might bring some attention to the need for expanded actions, and help others give a voice to our home, and Earth is heard."


Buckel's body was already completely burned by the time firefighters arrived, according to the New York Post.

"We were a little freaked out," a jogger who found the body told the newspaper. "It took us a little while to process it."