The power couple accepted the award— presented by GLAAD, an LGBTQ media advocacy organization — on Thursday night. The award recognizes “allies who have made a significant difference in promoting acceptance of LGBTQ people, and has previously been given to performers such as Demi Lovato, Whoopi Goldberg, and Janet Jackson.
The singer and rapper each dedicated their wins to close family members — JAY-Z to his mother, who publicly came out as a lesbian through his song "Smile," and Beyoncé to her uncle Johnny who lived with HIV.
"He lived his truth. He was brave and unapologetic during a time when this country wasn't as accepting," she told the audience at the award ceremony.
"Witnessing his battle with HIV was one of the most painful experiences I've ever lived...I'm hopeful that his struggles served to open pathways for other young people to live more freely," she added.
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The Carters are clearly a force to be reckoned with, both on stage as captivating performers and off stage as powerful advocates for human rights and equality.
The inspiring couple embody the idea that “Everything Is Love” — also the title of their recent joint album — and encourage others to do the same.
“We’re here to promote love for every human being, and change starts from supporting the people closest to you. So let’s tell them they are loved," Beyoncé said. "Let’s speak out and protect them. And parents, let’s love our kids in their truest form.”
JAY-Z, who said he following in his mother's "footsteps of spreading love and acceptance," has long supported same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights.
"What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love. That's their business,” he told CNN in 2012. “[It] is no different than discriminating against blacks. It's discrimination plain and simple."
The couple jointly won the Vanguard Award this year, but this isn’t JAY-Z’s first GLAAD award. The rapper also received a Special Recognition Award last year in recognition of his song “Smile.”
Beyoncé has also consistently used her platform to advocate for equal rights and support for the LGBTQ community. The singer has included same-sex couples in her music videos, featured trans icon Laverne Cox in an ad for her fitness clothing line, and spoken out against the North Carolina “bathroom bill” preventing LGBTQ people from using the bathroom consistent with their gender identity.
The Carters’ activism isn’t limited to advancing LGBTQ rights. Both JAY-Z and Beyoncé are Global Citizen Ambassadors and, for years, have called for greater gender and racial equality, as well as and an end to global poverty. The pair performed together at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 in Johannesburg, South Africa, last December.
“LGBTQI rights are human rights. To choose who you love is your human right. How you identify and see yourself is your human right," Queen Bey told the cheering audience. "Who you make love to and take that ass to Red Lobster is your human right!” she said, referencing the lyrics from her hit "Formation."
This story was originally published on March 12, prior to the Carters' acceptance of the award, and has been updated to reflect the honor.