Gay Civil Rights Lawyer Dies After Setting Himself On Fire

Officials investigate the scene and carry away the man's body inside Prospect Park

A prominent NY lawyer has died after setting himself on fire in Brooklyn's Prospect Park to protest against the use of fossil fuels.

The New York Times, which along with several other media outlets was sent a note from Buckel explaining his suicide, said the note urged people "to lead less selfish lives as a way to protect the planet".

A jogger on a run through Prospect Park at around 6:15 a.m. spotted a fire on the grass, police sources said.

One of Buckel's most high-profile cases involved the gang rape and murder of Brandon Teena, a 21-year-old transgender man who was killed as a result of a hate crime in Nebraska.

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

Buckel noted in his letter that he was fortunate to have "good health to the final moment", and added that he hoped his death would lead to increased action on environmental concerns. "Honorable goal in life invites honorable objective in death", he wrote. "We will honor his life by continuing his fight for a better world".

In a statement on Buckel's death, Lambda Legal described his death as "heartbreaking" and the attorney as a "beautiful human being".

Buckel was marriage project director for Lambda Legal, and in that position he persuaded the organization to file a suit for marriage rights in Iowa in 2005, "at a time when only MA permitted same-sex couples to marry", noted a statement released by Camilla Taylor, the group's director of constitutional litigation and acting legal director.

In his suicide note, Buckel recalled the Tibetan monk protesters who have set themselves on fire in protest of the Chinese occupation in Tibet, according to the New York Daily News. Hilary Swank, who starred in the film, won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her portrayal of Teena.

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.

Former colleague and lawyer Susan Sommer told the New York Times Mr Buckel was "all about justice, but he was also all about what it means to be human".

Sommer added, "He was a very smart and methodical lawyer".

Offered Camilla Taylor, Lamba Legal's director of constitutional litigation and acting legal director in a statement, 'This is a tragic loss for our Lambda Legal family and for the social justice movement'. Our hearts go out to all who knew him.

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