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Gay Rights Lawyer David S. Beckel Set Himself on Fire in Protest Suicide for Climate Change

Gay Rights Lawyer David S. Beckel Set Himself on Fire in Protest Suicide for Climate Change
(Fox News/YouTube, David S. Beckel/NYtimes)

The burnt remains of a prominent LGBT civil rights attorney was found in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday morning.

In a suicide note left in a nearby shopping cart, David S. Beckel said he burned himself by igniting a fire using fossil fuels to symbolize the devastating effects humans are wreaking on the planet.

Beckels body was found near some baseball diamonds within an area of the park that is usually busy with foot traffic. The police pronounced him dead at 6:30 a.m. and ruled it as a suicide. He was 60.

David S. Beckel was the lead lawyer for Brandon v. County of Richardson during the case involving 21-year-old Brandon Teena, the transgender man who was raped and murdered in Humbolt, Nebraska, in 1993.

Teena's life was later adapted into the 1999 film Boys Don't Cry, starring Hillary Swank in her Oscar-winning role portraying Teena.

In addition to his suicide note found in Prospect Park near the body, Beckel emailed his final words to various media outlets, including the New York Times.

He was active as a marriage project director and senior counsel at Lambda Legal which championed for LGBTQ rights. After leaving the organization, friends said Beckel turned his focus on environmental causes, which explains the method by which he took his own life through self-immolution using fossil fuels.

The Times received Beckel's email at 5:55 a.m.

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.

According to the email, Beckel expressed the futile efforts of trying improve the world and said that privilege was "derived from the suffering of others."

Many who drive their own lives to help others often realize that they do not change what causes the need for their help.

Beckel referred to the Tibetan monks who set themselves on fire in protest of the Chinese occupation in Tibet.

This is not new, as many have chose to give a life based on the view that no other action can most meaningfully address the harm they see. Here is a hope that giving a life might bring some attention to the need for expanded actions, and help others give a voice to our home, and Earth is heard.

As head of Lambda, Beckel worked tirelessly to advance rights for the gay, bisexual, and lesbian communities. Camilla Taylor, acting legal director at Lambda Legal, said Beckel helmed the Nabozny v. Podlesny case which led the federal court to place a ban on bullying in schools.

"The news of David's death is heartbreaking," she said.

Susan Sommer, a former attorney for the organization said Beckel laid the groundwork for allowing gay marriage.

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.

Friends and colleagues were disheartened over the tragic news.

H/T/ - HuffingtonPost, Twitter, NYtimes, YouTube