10/19/2012 05:09 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Allies Across Boundaries


It can be scary to be different. As a gay man, I know how that feels. Fortunately, I also know that over my lifetime we have made undeniable progress in changing that reality. I am proud to have been the main sponsor of marriage equality in the New York State Assembly, and of the Dignity for All Students Act, an anti-bullying bill. I am overjoyed that the man I once had to pretend I didn't love is now my husband. But we still have many injustices left to battle, and the next generation of LGBTQ youth still faces significant intolerance and fear.

In order for us to improve on our successes, we must amass as diverse a group of allies as possible. Today is a wonderful opportunity for us to do that, because today is Spirit Day, a day on which activists everywhere dress in purple, add a purple tint to their social media profile pictures, and speak out to promote greater awareness of our cause and to recruit wide-ranging allies in this fight.

To the same end, while implementing the Dignity for All Students Act, I have been working with an amazing group of organizations dedicated to combating bullying in our schools by fostering a culture of inclusion and openness. Importantly, that group is made up of not just LGBTQ organizations but stakeholders in education and other less obvious allies who recognize the importance of these issues for all of New York's, and America's, children.

One of these allies is the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, which honored me this year with their Legislator of the Year Award for my work on the Dignity for All Students Act. This unanticipated award exemplifies NYAPT's pioneering leadership on behalf of all New York students and is an inspiring example of the power of unexpected allies.

Bullying is not an issue unique to the LGBTQ community, or one that can be addressed solely by ourselves. I am proud to stand with NYAPT to say that every New Yorker, every American, is affected by bullying, and all of us will work together to end it. We have much work left to do, and today we reaffirm our commitment to do it. I am proud to be one of many wearing purple today on behalf of the effort to end bullying everywhere, and I encourage all of you to join in. With our purple shirts or ties or Facebook profile pictures, we advertise our willingness to address bullying and harassment wherever we encounter it and affirm the importance of working with our allies wherever we may find them.