According to GLAAD President Herndon Graddick, Madonna and Cooper are longtime friends who have both used their careers to support lesbian, gay and transgender people. Graddick said:
Madonna has been a passionate spokesperson and longtime supporter of gay rights. She has embraced LGBT people around the world on many occasions. From speaking out against bullying to raising support for marriage equality, Madonna has always been one of our community's strongest allies. We are honored to have her stand with GLAAD and Anderson Cooper.
Speaking about Cooper, Graddick said:
By sharing his own experiences as a gay man, Anderson has reminded millions of Americans that LGBT people are part of their everyday lives and an integral part of our cultural fabric. He continues to raise the bar and set a new standard for journalists everywhere, and I'm proud to call him a friend.
For years, Anderson Cooper declined to speak regarding his sexual. However, in July of 2012, he gave Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan permission to publish an email which cleared up any misconceptions. In the email, Cooper said:
The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.
The Vito Russo Award is presented to an openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender media professional who has made "a significant difference in promoting equality."
The award received its name from GLAAD founder Vito Russo, who chronicled early images of the LGBT community in his film and book, "The Celluloid Closet." Past recipients include Rosie O'Donnell, Cynthia Nixon, Nathan Lane, Elton John, Ricky Martin, and Tom Ford.
The annual GLAAD Media Awards will be held at the New York Marriot Marquis on Saturday, March 16.
The anchors of Good Morning America, Lara Spencer, Josh Elliott and Sam Champion will also be joining the evening as hosts. Special guests include NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe, who have spoken out for same-sex marriage and gay rights, director Brett Ratner, actress Ellen Barkin, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry and Thomas Roberts, and John Leguizamo.