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GLAAD Media Awards: Stars honored while audience is thrilled by a special surprise appearance

LOS ANGELES -- The 23rd annual GLAAD Media Awards were presented Saturday night with much fanfare and a huge unexpected surprise that thrilled the audience to no end, bringing everyone to their feet.

The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the 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.

The Los Angeles awards ceremony (there are also awards presented in New York and San Francisco each year) were again held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel downtown, and the celebrities began arriving at 4:30 pm to walk the red carpet .

One of the first to hit the "Walk of Change" (red carpet) was Jennifer Tyrrell, the Cub Scout mother from Ohio who was ousted as a Den Leader because she is a lesbian.

Tyrrell brought her entire family (partner, three children) to the event. During interviews on the red carpet, she admitted the public response these past two weeks has been a whirlwind and this trip to LA was the first time she'd ever flown on a plane. When she told her story on stage later in the evening, she spoke with such eloquence that many in the huge ballroom were moved to tears.

Near the end of her speech, Tyrrell urged attendees to "get out your smart phones" and go to change.org to sign her petition requesting the Boy Scouts of America to change their anti-gay policies.

"We are not a distraction. My son and [his] pack are becoming leaders and that has nothing to do with my sexual orientation," she said.

The media room was quickly worked into a frenzy when the bigger stars began making appearances on the red carpet. Fran Drescher ("The Nanny," "Happily Divorced") popped in and out and didn't speak with much of the line, but her ex-husband, Peter Marc Jacobson took his time and spoke to as many outlets as he had time for.

Lady Bunny and Raven, both from "RuPaul's Drag Race," took to the carpet together and made quite a splash with the media, hamming it up for the cameras.

Presenters Gilles Marini ("Brothers and Sisters," "Sex in the City"), Tabatha Coffey ("Tabatha Takes Over"), Sara Gilbert ("The Talk"), and Ali Larter ("Heroes," "Resident Evil"), all made their way down the walk and were very generous with their time. Nominees Max Adler (also a presenter and star of "Glee") and Josh Hutcherson ("The Kids Are Alright," "Hunger Games") thrilled the line with conversation.

After accepting his award, Hutcherson later directed people to the Straight But Not Narrow website and thanked his friends there. He is actively involved with the site and has done a PSA for them. He dedicated his award to others, saying, "This is to everybody who’s ever had a struggle in life being yourself.  I think that the most beautiful thing a human being can do is just be who you are inside.  So please, everybody, just be yourselves and encourage everyone else to do the same." 

Back on the red carpet, the cameras really began snapping when Stephen F. Kolzak Award Honoree Chaz Bono and his stepmother Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack arrived. Chaz was incredibly patient and spoke to every outlet as he made his way down the line. Chaz was surprised later in the evening when his bio-mother Cher unexpectedly took to the stage to assist Bono-Mack in honoring him. "You are the bravest person I know," Cher said, before calling him to the stage.

Ellen opened the awards with a well-received bit that was party comedy and part serious.

Grammy Award winning singer Jason Mraz was originally expected to perform, but instead took the stage to announce that his voice was not in top form, but that he wanted to share his support of GLAAD and equality. He shared a story about his best friend in high school coming out and the challenges it presented. "I was skinny and scrawny and didn't fight back then, but now I am rich and have a powerful voice." ... and have anout 2% more body mass than high school bff came out ..."

Also during the program, Jamey Rodermeyer's family brought the room to a complete standstill, with their poignant words about Jamey, who killed himself after nonstop anti-gay bullying. "In his 14 short years he taught me more than I ever taught him," his mother said. Rodermeyer is the young man who posted a video on YouTube addressing Lady Gaga before taking his life as a result of constant bullying last year. Lady Gaga dedicated "Born This Way" to him the following night at a performance and that clip was shown.

Rodermeyer's mother said Jamey's voice was heard around the world and the family has vowed to carry on his message.

Betty White, who at 90 can still bring the house down with her off-the-cuff humor, accepted (with her co-stars Wendie Malick and Jane Leeves) the award for an "outstanding episode" of Hot in Cleveland, and was charming as ever. "I've gotta say one thing, we're so grateful and appreciative," she said. "Whatever our sexual persuasion, when you see us together, you'd swear we are all gay because we adore each other." Malick then chimed in. "There is a lot of silliness, but every once in a while we get to make a point. I'm proud we are part of the solution," she said.

Following is a complete list of GLAAD Media Award recipients announced Saturday night:

 *   Stephen F. Kolzak Award:  Chaz Bono

 *   Vanguard Award:  Josh Hutcherson

 *   Outstanding Film - Wide Release: Beginners (Focus Features)

 *   Outstanding Documentary: Becoming Chaz (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)

 *   Outstanding Comedy Series: Modern Family (ABC)

 *   Outstanding Individual Episode: "Prom" Drop Dead Diva (Lifetime) and "Beards" Hot in Cleveland (TV Land)

Check out Cher addressing the audience at the GLAAD Media Awards on Saturday night and Chaz's acceptance speech for the Stephen F. Kolzak Award:

Check out Benico del Toro presenting and Josh Hutcherson receiving the Vanguard Award:

Stars on the red carpet photos, top left: Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack and her stepson, Chaz Bono; middle: Raven and Lady Bunny; bottom: Josh Hutcherson. All photos by Cali Griebel.