U.S. climate lawyer sets himself on fire in protest

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A prominent American lawyer and gay rights activist has died after setting himself on fire at a NY park to protest damage being done to the planet, according to USA media reports.

Police pronounced Buckel dead at 6.30am.

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.

Hours before his death, Mr Buckel emailed a copy of his suicide note to several media outlets.

"Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result", Buckel wrote in his note, which he also sent to the New York Times.

'I hope it is an honorable death that might serve others'. "Honorable goal in life invites honorable objective in death", he wrote. "A lifetime of service may best be preserved by giving a life".

Buckel is also credited by colleagues as a leader in the legal battle for marriage equality - he was a senior attorney at Lambda Legal's Marriage Project.

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Camilla Taylor - Lambda Legal's director of constitutional litigation and acting legal director - said in a statement: "The news of David's death is heartbreaking".

Lambda Legal also highlighted key successes of Buckel's legal career, such as the unanimous ruling in 2009 by the Iowa Supreme Court allowing same-sex marriage - making the Midwest state only the third American state to recognize this right at the time of the decision.

A county sheriff was found negligent in the killing for his failure to protect Teena from his rapists - who returned and killed him once he went to authorities.

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. Hilary Swank won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Teena in the 1999 movie "Boys Don't Cry".

"It's a very important case, not only within Nebraska but nationally", Buckel had told the Daily Nebraskan newspaper in 2001, after helping win an $80,000 judgment.

Buckel ran the NYC Composting Project out of Red Hook Community Farm. "He knew his craft and his trade and was strategic in how to build the blocks toward a sweeping victory". David helped create Lambda Legal's focus on LGBT youth.

Tributes have begun to pour in for Buckel, with Lambda Legal calling his death a loss for the "entire movement for social justice".

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