David Buckel, one of the most renowned and nationally acclaimed champions for gay rights, was found dead in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York, after he set himself on fire early Saturday morning.

Before he self-immolated, Buckel clarified he was committing the act as a protest against the use of fossil fuels.

“My name is David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide. I apologize to you for the mess,” he said in a hand-written note left at the scene and in an email to media outlets.

Buckel, 60, was a supporter of LGBT rights and also the lead attorney in Brandon vs County of Richardson, in which a Nebraska county sheriff was found guilty of failing to protect Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered.

The case attracted quite a lot of publicity and was even adapted into a movie, concentrating on Teena’s life named “Boys Don’t Cry,” which won actress Hillary Swank an Academy Award. 

Apart from this, Buckel also served as a director for a project to promote marriage equality and a senior counsel at Lambda Legal. During his career, Buckel worked on several important cases that focused on marriage equality before shifting his complete focus to environmental causes.

“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,” he added in the letter he sent to the media outlets just before his death.  

According to a report in Slate.com, following Buckel's suicide, Lambda Legal also issued a statement mourning the death of one of their own.

“This is a tremendous loss for our Lambda Legal family, but also for the entire movement for social justice. David was an indefatigable attorney and advocate, and also a dedicated and loving friend to so many. He will be remembered for his kindness, devotion, and vision for justice,” Camilla Taylor, director of constitutional litigation and acting legal director, said. 

In the note Buckel left, he also supposedly drew comparisons between his actions and those of the Tibetan monks who self-immolated in order to protest Chinese rule.

Buckel, a graduate of Cornell Law School, worked with several local organizations that were involved in the practice of community composting. He also served in an official capacity on the NYC Compost Project at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is right next to Prospect Park.

Susan Sommer, a former attorney for Lambda Legal and currently the general counsel for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, also reacted to Buckel’s death. 

“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. I learned so much from him about the emotional center 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,” she said.