Glee’s Naya Rivera and Cory Monteith hosted as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) honored producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Chicago, Hairspray, Smash) and the best in television, film and journalism last night at the 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York.

Bernadette Peters, Dakota Fanning, John Stamos, Harvey Weinstein, Megan Hilty, Russell Simmons, Kim Wayans, Carson Kressley, Padma Lakshmi, Vinny Guadagnino, and Tracey Gold were among the special guests.

The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and the issues that affect their lives. The GLAAD Media Awards also fund GLAAD’s work to amplify stories of LGBT people and issues that build support for equality.

At the ceremony, Broadway legend Bernadette Peters and actor John Stamos presented the Vito Russo Award to producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. The Vito Russo Award is presented to openly LGBT media professionals who have made a significant difference in promoting equality for the LGBT community.

“I want to thank GLAAD for selecting us to be honored, and for their extraordinary work every single day,” Zadan said in his acceptance speech. “When we did The Reagans, we had death threats for telling the truth about that President’s outright refusal to acknowledge the growing AIDS crisis in America. We would not have survived that ordeal, I must point out, without the help of GLAAD. They got us through the political firestorm leveled against us by the Republican National Committee. So we got to see first hand what GLAAD’s capable of accomplishing when they mobilize the troops, and thank God for them.”

Zadan finished his acceptance by thanking his late friend and GLAAD’s founder, Vito Russo, “Some people become your heroes and they don’t even know it. [Vito Russo] was mine. And the lucky thing for me was I got to tell him while he was here. I want to thank…my guru and inspirational life-force Vito Russo, who is responsible for every aspect of my social consciousness that brought me to this stage tonight to get this award that bears his glorious name. Thank you so much.”

Meron accepted the award by saying, “I just love being gay. [It’s] part of who I am, so it impacts the work that we do, and I love the work that we do. So it’s great.” Pointing to the youth in the balcony, Meron continued, “It’s great for you guys to understand that it’s really great to be gay. I really thank GLAAD for this wonderful honor and it’s very, very meaningful to me.”

Also at the event, The Weinstein Company Co-Chairman and outspoken anti-bullying advocate Harvey Weinstein presented a Special Recognition award to openly gay high school student Katy Butler. Butler launched a Change.org campaign last month to advocate that the ‘R’ rating of the upcoming documentary Bully be changed to ‘PG-13.’ Her Change.org petition has nearly 500,000 signatures.

Accepting the award from Weinstein, Butler said, “This award belongs to every student like me, who has been bullied and beaten just for being who they are. Please know that we’re working hard to make it better. And judging from what we’ve already seen tonight, I’m thankful that we have groups like GLAAD on our side. Stay strong.” She continued, “A few weeks ago, I started a petition on Change.org urging the Motion Picture Association of America to change the rating of Bully from R to PG-13 – so students across America can see this life-changing film. I want to personally thank each and every one of the nearly half a million people who have signed my petition on Change.org. Your signatures, stories, and ongoing support have inspired a national dialogue on our nation’s bullying epidemic and have given hope to struggling students everywhere.”

Zach Wahls, who appeared in a GLAAD Media Award-nominated episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show this year, received a standing ovation as he spoke to the crowd about the impact of his 2011 speech to the Iowa senate in which he spoke about his lesbian moms. The viral video has received over 18 million views on YouTube.

Pariah stars Adepero Oduye and Kim Wayans with the film’s producer Nekisa Cooper accepted the award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release. Carson Kressley, who with Chaz Bono appeared on the GLAAD Media Award-nominated season of Dancing with the Stars, picked up the statuette on behalf of the show which receive the award for Outstanding Reality Program. The award for Outstanding TV Journalism Segment was accepted by ABC News Correspondent Josh Elliott for his report “Battle Against Bullying,” which aired on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. In his acceptance speech, Elliott thanked his father, who came out as a gay man when Elliott was 13 years old. Openly gay journalists Carolyn M. Brown and Chris Geidner shared the award for Outstanding Magazine Article for their stories in Black Enterprise and Metro Weekly respectively. Brown’s article “Black & Gay in Corporate America,” explored the increasing presence of openly gay African American employees in the workplace. Geidner received the award for his four-part series looking back at the passage of the Defense of Marrage Act (DOMA) during the Clinton administration.

Also honored at the event were Lady Gaga and Ricky Martin.

Other guests and presenters at the event included: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, Cheyenne Jackson (30 Rock), La La Anthony (La La’s Full Court Life), Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir and his husband Victor Voronov, Vinny Guadagnino (Jersey Shore), Ted Allen (Chopped), Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (Becoming Chaz, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys), Alex Newell, Emily Vasquez, Marissa Von Bleicken (The Glee Project), Wendy Williams (The Wendy Williams Show), Laverne Cox (Musical Chairs), Jay Manuel, Isis King (America’s Next Top Model), the cast of Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, Janet Mock (People.com), Emil Wilbekin (Essence), Jamie Clayton (Hung), Stephen Karam, Charles Socarides (Sons of the Prophet), Robin Skye (Southern Comfort), Mega TV’s Javier Ceriani (Paparazzi Magazine) and GLAAD Acting President Mike Thompson. Attendees enjoyed performances by recording artist Todd Alsup and The Rockettes.

Now in its second year in New York, Young Adults @ the GLAAD Media Awards allowed over 400 youth and young adults from the greater New York-area to attend the event for free. Support was provided from corporate partners Madison Square Garden–The Rockettes Company and Major League Baseball. Additional support from underwriters including Bridgestone Americas, Cirque du Soleil, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Tom Ford & Richard Buckley, Billie Jean King, Bishop Gene Robinson and Steve Tisch allowed GLAAD to make this program possible. Students affiliated with the AIDS Center of Queens County, the Creative Arts Team Youth Theater, the City College of New York Straight and Gay Alliance, and the Staten Island LGBT Community Center enjoyed the show, as well as a pre-reception advocacy fair and a private after-party.

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