The singer-songwriter, 73, and his husband David Furnish, 58, were honoured at the annual event for their efforts to raise awareness of HIV through the Elton John Aids Foundation.
The ceremony, which took place online this year due to coronavirus restrictions, saw awards go to Years And Years frontman Olly Alexander and former Wales rugby star Gareth Thomas, and was hosted by Rylan Clark-Neal.
Sir Elton, who has two children with Furnish, accepted the award during a pre-recorded speech from their home, wearing a pair of oversized red-tinted sunglasses.
He said: “This has been an unprecedented year and we know that some of the hardest-hit individuals and communities are those in the LGBT community.
“You’re isolated, living in fear or living with violence because of who they are and who they love, and this is unimaginably tough.”
He added: “We believe more than anything that you deserve the right to choose who you love and to love yourself for who you are, no matter where you are in the world.”
Sir Elton concluded: “Thank you so much for tonight’s recognition and honour and we promise that we won’t stop. Say it loud, I’m gay and I’m proud.”
Furnish added: “We are proud to be working right here at home in the UK for this community as well as in over 25 countries around the world.
“We commit to not leave anyone behind, and we won’t. We want a future where people of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations and gender identities have the opportunity to live free from HIV, discrimination, injustice and mistreatment.”
Rugby star Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009 and a decade later revealed he was HIV positive, was named sports personality winner for his campaigning work.
Great British Bake Off presenter Matt Lucas was honoured with the media trailblazer prize as one of the openly gay celebrities prevalent in the ’90s and ’00s.
Years And Years singer Alexander was awarded celebrity of the year after a series of high-profile media appearances to raise awareness of issues facing LGBT+ communities.
And Gentleman Jack star Suranne Jones said she was “honoured” after being named celebrity ally after using her platform to promote equality.
She said: “I will continue to be your ally for as long as you’ll have me. I’ll see you when we can all be together again and love each other up.”
Sarah Garrett, founder of the awards, said: “The British LGBT Awards took place this year against the backdrop of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“It wasn’t our usual ceremony but a spectacular virtual event, hosted by Rylan, ensured we could still celebrate all of those who are working hard to promote equality and advance the rights of LGBT+ people.
“Each and every one of our winners and nominees make the world a better place.”
Global inclusion lead for the awards’ founding partners NatWest, Debbie Miller, said: “2020 has proven to be a difficult year for everyone, but within that, we’ve seen the LGBT+ community come together more than ever.
“NatWest is proud to support the British LGBT Awards in virtually recognising the business and community leaders, charities and organisations that are working hard to create a more equal future for everyone.”