New York Governor David Paterson has signed an anti-bullying bill that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

Paterson, a Democrat, signed the bill this morning at a ceremony held at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in the city's Greenwich Village.

The Dignity for All Students Act won the overwhelming approval of senators in June after the Assembly had approved the bill nine times since openly gay Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell first introduced the bill in 2002.

“Too many students are bullied based on real or perceived differences with their classmates,” O'Donnell said in a statement. “Every student deserves an environment free of harassment, an environment that allows every child to reach his or her full potential. For too long, our educational system has been blind to the plight of these students. I am proud that the Assembly led the way on this important issue, and that today, the Dignity for All Students Act is finally signed into law.”

Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, a strong backer of the bill, cheered the governor's actions.

“We applaud Governor Paterson for taking this tremendous step to protect vulnerable students from the discrimination that can undermine their ability to succeed in the educational system and beyond,” he said.

The bill calls on school officials to address bullying and bias-related behavior of all kinds that interfere with student safety and learning. The law requires reporting of bias-related incidents to the State Education Department and creates rules that help prevent hate violence.

The Dignity for All Students Act also protects students on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, religious practice, weight and disability.