Prominent gay rights lawyer David S. Buckel died in New York on Saturday after setting himself on fire in a protest against environmental destruction.
The charred remains of Buckel, 60, were found in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.
Buckel had spent the bulk of his career fighting for gay rights, including serving as the marriage project director and senior counsel at Lambda Legal, a non-profit civil rights organisation.
“I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide,” read a handwritten suicide note, according to the New York Daily News.
“I apologise to you for the mess.”
Another note found near his body, which was also emailed to local news outlets, said his self-immolation was a call to action.
“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” he wrote in an email, according to 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.”
In his note Buckel wrote he was in “good health to the final moment” and hoped his death would lead to increased action to protect the environment.
Buckel became involved in environmental causes after leaving Lambda Legal, where he directed several major same-sex marriage cases in Iowa and New Jersey.
He also worked on a lawsuit on behalf of Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was raped and murdered in Falls City, Nebraska, in 1993. Teena’s story was portrayed in the movie Boys Don’t Cry, for which Hilary Swank won the Academy Award for best actress.
“David was an indefatigable attorney and advocate, and also a dedicated and loving friend to so many. He will be remembered for his kindness, devotion, and vision for justice,” Lambda Legal said in a statement.
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