The star rose to fame in her sitcom back in the 1990s and influenced a generation to speak openly about their sexuality.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show won the Daytime Emmy Award for best entertainment talk show on Sunday, 20 years to the day that her character came out as gay on the sitcom Ellen.
“She did it because it was the right thing to do,” said Mary Connelly, Ellen executive producer, of the star’s decision to be open about her sexuality and do the same for her character in 1997.
Ellen was absent and Mary accepted the award.
Elsewhere at the US TV awards, General Hospital was honoured as best daytime drama, with top acting awards going to Scott Clifton for The Bold And The Beautiful, and Gina Tognoni for The Young And The Restless.
Scott became the first actor to receive Daytime Emmys in the categories of best younger, supporting and lead actor in his career.
Steve Harvey skipped the ceremony but was a double winner. He was named best game show host for Family Feud and best host of an informative talk show for his self-titled programme.
Good Morning America won the best morning programme trophy, while The Dr Oz Show claimed the best informative talk show award. Jeopardy! was honoured as best game show.
Sheryl Underwood, who hosted the live-streamed ceremony with Mario Lopez, also accepted the best entertainment talk show host award with fellow presenters including Sara Gilbert and Sharon Osbourne.
Entertainment Tonight was named best entertainment news programme and former ET anchor Mary Hart accepted a lifetime achievement award. Mary recounted the scepticism that greeted ET in the early 1980s when it launched TV’s now-flourishing Hollywood news magazine genre.
“We are not fluff,” she recalled saying at the time. “Had I known what was coming, I would have said, ‘We are not fake news.’”
Mary also asked that people, whether on college campuses or in government, make an effort to listen to other points of view. Gaby Natale, who was honoured as best talent in a Spanish-language programme for SuperLatina With Gaby Natale, issued her own plea.
She dedicated her award to the “people who are resisting inequality, misogyny, xenophobia and the rise of intolerance. Do not allow anyone to tell you otherwise: diversity is beautiful”.
The ceremony was held as negotiators for the Writers Guild Of America and producers attempted to reach a deal on a new contract and avert a strike that could disrupt daytime and prime-time TV shows and movie production. The existing contract expires on Monday night.