Lawyer who killed himself in protest put 'soul' into all his work

A legal colleague of the gay rights lawyer who self-immolated in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park said Sunday “there are other ways to fight for what you believe in.”

Adam Aronson, 52, was among many in the legal world shocked by David Buckel’s suicide Saturday morning. The noted gay rights lawyer and environmental activist set himself on fire near ballfields and left behind a note explaining that his suicide was intended as a wakeup call about the environment.

“He put his heart and soul into everything he did in life. He obviously decided to put his heart and soul in the way he died. I think it’s tragic. I wish he hadn’t done it,” said Aronson, who worked with Buckel at Lambda Legal from 2001 to 2006.

“There are other ways to fight for what you believe in. I wish this hadn't been the way that he had chosen to do it.”

Buckel left notes behind in the park detailing exactly what he’d done and why.

“I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide,” he wrote. “I apologize to you for the mess.

“My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

Aronson credited Buckel with playing a critical role in the gay rights movement.

“He helped change the landscape forever for LGBTQ people,” Aronson said. “His marriage rights work really helped transform the landscape in this country. We have (gay) marriage today in all 50 states.”

In recent years Buckel had become dedicated to environmental causes. He was the senior organics recovery coordinator with the NYC Compost Project, which is funded by the city Sanitation Department.

Buckel left behind his partner, Terry Kaelber, and a daughter, Hannah, according to Aronson.

A 2006 story in Gay City News said that Kaelber and Buckel were co-parenting their daughter with two women, Rona Vail and Cindy Broholm.

“He was a very private person,” Aronson said.

A man and two women at Buckel’s home on Prospect Park Southwest declined to give their names.

“He gave a statement and that's really what he wanted,” one of the women said.

“Right, that's what he wanted,” the man added.

“He was a wonderful, loving person.”

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