Famed LGBT rights lawyer burns himself to death in Prospect Park

Courtesy of Moakley Archive & Institute

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

"It was just lying there, on its back, knees slightly bent like someone would lie on the sand at the beach", said Irena Ryjova, 44, a rollerblader who passed by at about 7 a.m., less than an hour after the immolation.

Buckel earned acclaim when he championed a lawsuit involving a transgender man named Brandon Teena who was slain in Nebraska. Buckel took his own life by setting himself on fire, sending a suicide note to various media outlets.

"Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather", Buckel wrote the Times in an email.

He added, "Honorable goal in life invites honorable objective in death".

"Honourable objective in life invites honourable goal in death". Friends confirmed that after Buckel left Lambda Legal he got involved with environmental activism. "We will honor his life by continuing his fight for a better world".

Camilla Taylor - Lambda Legal's director of constitutional litigation and acting legal director - said in a statement: "The news of David's death is heartbreaking".

He also worked as a marriage project director at LGBT rights group Lambda Legal and worked on same-sex marriage cases in New Jersey and Iowa.

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He'd been doing the work for years - Buckel worked on Brandon v. County of Richardson - where the sheriff's office in 2001 was found liable for failing to protect Teena. Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her role as Teena in the 1999 film Boys Don't Cry.

He reportedly compared his actions to Tibetan monks who have sacrificed themselves to protest Chinese rule, according to Buzzfeed.

'It's a very important case, not only within Nebraska but nationally, ' Buckel told the Daily Nebraskan newspaper in 2001, after helping win an $80,000 judgment.

He was also a well-known ecological activist, working with the NYC Compost Project, funded by the city Sanitation Department and based at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

"He was all about justice, but he was also all about what it means to be human", recalls Susan Sommer, a former Lambda Legal attorney.

Buckel devoted a large part of his legal career to fighting for the rights of LGBT individuals. "He knew his craft and his trade and was strategic in how to build the blocks toward a sweeping victory".

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