In accepting an award on Saturday night, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper called being gay a blessing, saying it has “opened my heart.”

The 45-year-old Cooper came out gay last year after ducking rumors for years.

He was presented with the Vito Russo Award at the 24th annual Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards in New York City. In presenting the award, Madonna called Cooper “brave” for “promoting equality.”

(Related: Madonna targets Boy Scouts over gay ban in presenting Anderson Cooper with award.)

“I am only here tonight because I've benefited from what they and so many others have done,” said Cooper, referring to gay rights activists such as Russo.

Cooper, also the host of the daytime talk show Anderson Live, said that “being gay is certainly one of the greatest blessings” of his life. “[I]t opened my head and heart in ways that I never could have predicted.” (The video is embedded on this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)

Winners on Saturday included NBC's Smash, which was named outstanding television drama, How to Survive a Plague, the Oscar-nominated film about AIDS activists, which took home the outstanding documentary prize, and CBS' The Amazing Race, which was named outstanding reality program.

The last cycle of The Amazing Race was won by a gay couple.

(Related: Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Brent Ridge win Amazing Race.)