The rocker became the first ever recipient of the accolade, named after the late guitarist/songwriter, during a special fundraiser at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee on Sunday, and he admitted he had difficulty being happy about the honour following what has been dubbed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
50 people were killed and 53 injured in the nightclub after Omar Mateen opened fire with an assault weapon at gay nightclub Pulse in the early hours of Sunday.
During his acceptance speech, Weir drew parallels between the radical beliefs of ISIS, the militant group Mateen reportedly pledged allegiance to, and homophobic politicians in the U.S.
"I'm humbled to accept this award but I have to accept it with a rather heavy heart today," he said, before telling the audience about a "distinguished representative" from Georgia, who used bible verses in the House of Representatives to promote "death to gay people as a reward for the way they were born."
"This morning, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas said that, 'Well, they’re reaping what they’ve sown,'" he continued. "Now, I wanna ask a question: how different are these peoples’ world views from the world views of the people with ISIS? It’s the same hatred. They pull those hatreds out of different books, but it’s the same hatred and I’d just like to point that out."
He later performed with his band Dead & Company, which features John Mayer and Grateful Dead stars Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, as headliners of the festival. He made the same reference to politicians onstage when he encouraged people to vote to "get the a**holes out of there".
Weir wasn't the only star to reference the massacre as he accepted a prize - actors Frank Langella and Lin-Manuel Miranda addressed the tragedy as they picked up Tony Awards in New York on Sunday.