Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell won Campaigner of the Year at the fourth Observer Ethical Awards in London last night.
He edged out runners-up Hugh Fearnley and Jamie Oliver, the TV presenters and celebrity chefs at the newspaper’s awards.
Film star Colin Firth, one of the judges, presented Mr. Tatchell with his award.
Politician of the Year was won by Caroline Lucas, Member of the European Parliament and leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.
Naturalist and TV nature programme presenter, Sir David Attenborough, was given a Lifetime Achievement Award.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Tatchell paid tribute to “the many human rights campaigners worldwide who risk their lives and freedom”, in countries like Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe, Iraq and China.
“It is an honour with work with and support them,” he said.
Speaking after the event Mr Tatchell added: “During the 1980s and 1990s I was often demonised by the popular press, lambasted by the political establishment and targeted for violent attack by neo-Nazis. Undeterred, I carried on campaigning.
“After more than 40 years of activism for gay rights and for other human rights causes, it is immensely gratifying to receive this accolade. My transition from public enemy number one to campaign award winner has been extraordinary.
“I want to thank everyone who supported me through the difficult, turbulent years when I was a minority voice and frequently reviled.
“Their kindness and solidarity is treasured. It gave me the strength to carry on the fight for justice and has helped bring me the recognition I have won today.
“During the last year, my campaign schedule has included arrest at the recent Gay Pride parade in Moscow, support for persecuted ethnic minorities in Iran and Pakistan, publicising the murder of LGBT Iraqis by Islamist death squads, challenging homophobia in football, assisting asylum seekers fleeing persecution, lobbying against the ban on same-sex marriage and helping secure the acquittal of two Baluch human rights campaigners who were framed on terrorism charges in London.
“I do my bit for human rights, as do many others. Together, we make the change,” he said.
Campaigning, however comes at a financial cost. And Mr. Tatchell is appealing for 1,000 people to regularly donate £5 a month to pay for campaign staff he urgently needs.