A lawyer known for advancing the cause of gay rights self-immolated in a New York City park early Saturday, reports the New York Times, but did so to advance the cause of the environment. David Buckel, 60, was was "one of the architects of the freedom to marry and marriage equality movement," says a former colleague at Lambda Legal. He was the lead counsel in Brandon v. County of Richardson, in which he successfully sought to hold accountable a Nebraska sheriff for failing to protect a transgender man; Hilary Swank won an Oscar for portraying that man in Boys Don't Cry. "Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death," Buckel wrote in the email to the Times.
But of late, it was environmental causes that captured Buckel's passion—causes he sought to draw attention to with his dramatic suicide. "Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather," Buckel wrote. "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 normally vibrant Prospect Park, where Buckel ended his life, police and firefighters gathered around what the Times calls a "grim scene." Everyone looked "dumbfounded," says one witness. "Nobody could believe it." (Read more gay rights stories.)