Clinton presented a coalition of Ugandan rights groups with the State Department's 2011 Human Rights Defender Award, a signal to African and Islamic nations that Washington will not backtrack in its fight against the legal and political persecution of homosexuals.
"It is critical for all Ugandans - the government and citizens alike - to speak out against discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of anyone. That's true no matter where they come from, what they believe, or whom they love," Clinton said.
Clinton said she raised the issue in talks on Friday with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose government has been accused of allowing political and religious leaders to drum up anti-gay feeling in the deeply conservative East African nation.
"You are a model for others and an inspiration for the world," Clinton said to representatives of the group, formed in 2009 to combat draft legislation which proposed the death penalty for anyone convicted of "aggravated homosexuality".
The bill, which spurred a global outcry, stalled in parliament but has been reintroduced in a watered down form by a member of Museveni's party.
The new version dropped the death sentence, but would still outlaw the "promotion" of gay rights and punish anyone who "funds, sponsors or abets homosexuality".
Clinton's strong expression of support for Uganda's beleaguered gay community came as she continued a seven-nation trip across Africa.