Nationally known gay rights lawyer David S. Buckel died after setting himself on fire in NY on Saturday morning in a protest against destructive ecological practices.
His suicide note expressed the hope that his death would serve as a call to action.
"My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves", he wrote.
Buckel, who had recently turned his energies to environmental causes, is known for directing major same-sex marriage cases in Iowa and New Jersey in his role as marriage project director for Lambda Legal, a nonprofit organization that promotes civil rights for the LGBT community.
He was an attorney in Lewis v. Harris, in which the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2006 that same-sex couples be provided all the benefits and responsibility of marriage.
Buckel had worked at Lambda Legal, where he headed the Marriage Project and was the lead attorney in a lawsuit involving Brandon Teena, a transgender teen who was killed in 1993 after he had told the police he was raped. Because of Buckel, Teena's family won additional damages from their local law enforcement agency over its negligence.
Many friends told the Times that Buckel had become an environmental activist in recent years.
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In his suicide letter, the deceased gay rights attorney spouted veritable liberal talking points about so-called "privilege", saying that he himself had been privileged with "good health to the final moment", and suggesting that he owed it to the world to suffer.
"David was an indefatigable attorney and advocate, and also a dedicated and loving friend to so many".
The case Brandon vs. County of Richardson, in which a Nebraska county sheriff was found liable for failing to protect Teena, was the subject of the 1999 film Boys Don't Cry.
"Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather", the note said. David helped create Lambda Legal's focus on LGBT youth.
"It was the first time a federal court had ever held that schools have an obligation to prevent anti-gay bullying, and put schools across the country on notice that they were responsible for putting a stop to it", Taylor said. He championed filing a marriage lawsuit in state court in Iowa in 2005, at a time when only MA permitted same-sex couples to marry. The decision vindicated David's firm belief that we could win such cases even in the heartland, and propelled us to victories elsewhere. "A lifetime of service may best be preserved by giving a life...."
"Our thoughts and condolences go out to all those who loved David".