In Hopes That Death 'Might Serve Others,' Lawyer and Human Rights Advocate David Buckel Lights Himself on Fire in Fossil Fuel Protest

Prominent LGBTQ rights lawyer and environmental campaigner David Buckel died this weekend after self-immolating in an apparent protest against the destruction caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather. 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,” read  a note that was found near Buckel’s remains, in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York early on Saturday morning.

Buckel, who was 60 years old, added that he hoped his death “might serve others.”


The attorney ran Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2015. He also steered the group’s efforts to fight for LGBTQ youths’ rights, winning a landmark victory in 1996 for a high school student who was forced to leave his school after administrators failed to protect him from brutal bullying.

Buckel also prosecuted Richardson County, Neb., which was found liable in the murder of Brandon Teena, a transgender teenager.

“The news of David’s death is heartbreaking,” said Camilla Taylor, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal, in a statement. “This is a tremendous loss for our Lambda Legal family, but also for the entire movement for social justice…We have lost a movement leader, a colleague, and a friend. We will honor his life by continuing his fight for a better world.”

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