Gay Civil Rights Attorney Dies After Setting Himself On Fire

Gay civil rights lawyer, David S. Buckel, who was a trail blazer in the fight for marriage equality was found dead in Prospect Park this weekend.

Gay civil rights attorney David S. Buckel
Image: Jose F. Moreno/AP

The body of David S. Buckel, the gay civil rights attorney was discovered in Prospect Park this weekend. Buckel took his own life by setting himself on fire, sending a suicide note to various media outlets.

Buckel was well known for championing gay rights and was the lead attorney in the famous case surrounding Brandon Teena, a transgender teenager who was murdered in Nebraska.

This murder case went on to inspire the movie Boys Don’t Cry.

Buckel is also credited as a pioneer in the legal battle for marriage equality having served as marriage project director and senior counsel at Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project, which is a national organisation that fights for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.


The scene of the fire in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Credit Christopher Lee for The New York Times

“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 his email to the Times.

“Many who drive their own lives to help others often realize that they do not change what causes the need for their help,” Mr Buckel wrote, adding that donating to organizations was not enough.

Noting that he was privileged with “good health to the final moment,” Mr Buckel said he wanted his death to lead to increased action. “Honorable purpose in life invites honourable purpose in death,” he wrote.

The police said Mr Buckel was pronounced dead at 6:30 a.m. in what they said was a suicide.

“He deserves tremendous thanks for recognizing this was in many ways at the heart of what it meant to be gay for many Americans and making it a priority,” Susan Sommer, a former attorney at Lambda Legal, told the Times. “I learned so much from him about the emotional centre of what it means for a gay person not to be able to have all the protections for the person they love and that it’s worth fighting for.”


If you were affected by any of the issues highlighted in this article you can reach out to the following:

LGBT Helpline

T: 1890 929 539 | W:

Gay Switchboard

T: 01-872 1055 | W:

Dublin Lesbian Line

T: 01-872 9911 | W:


T: 1850 60 90 90 | W:

Aware (Depression)

T: 1890 303 302 | W: | E: [email protected]

Pieta House (Self-Harm/Suicide Support)

T: 01-6010000 | W: | E: [email protected]

Mental Health Ireland


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