Guido Barilla, Social Media Marketing Campaign
by aleXsandro Palombo
US rights groups urge boycott of Barilla after anti-gay remarks
US and international gay rights supporters have called for a boycott of italian pasta maker Barilla, whose chairman said he would never feature a gay family in the company's advertising.
The comments sparked a firestorm of protest on social media and resulted in online petitions in English, German and Italian, including one by Italian playwright and Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo.
A MoveOn.org petition started by Beth Allen, a lesbian mother-of-two from Maryland, had garnered 85,000 signatures by Friday evening.
"Guido Barilla made it clear how he felt about families like mine by saying that he'd never show gay families in advertisements for Barilla," Ms Allen said in her petition.
"He said that gays could eat another pasta if they didn't like his message. I'm taking him up on that and so should you," she said.
Chairman Guido Barilla, 55, sparked the controversy with comments on Wednesday to an Italian radio station.
"I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don't agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role," he said.
Mr Barilla also said he was unconcerned with whether gay consumers would stop buying pasta from the privately held company.
If gay people "like our pasta and our advertising, they'll eat our pasta. If they don't like it, then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand," he said.
The US-based Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) urged consumers to express their opinions with their shopping dollars and forgo products from Barilla, one of the world's best-known makers of pasta and ready-made sauce.
Nobel laureate Fo urged Barilla to make up for the remarks by creating an advertisement that featured a same-sex couple or parents.
The Washington DC-based Human Rights Campaign, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equal rights group, posted a list on its website of five Barilla competitors that are gay and lesbian-friendly.
"Now, more than ever, consumers are sending a message that they are watching to see if the business they patronise, understand and honour issues important to them," it said.
Barilla apologises, chairman says he has 'a lot to learn'
Barilla issued apologies on Thursday, and on Friday the company chairman posted a video in English on Facebook saying he respected everyone, "including gays and their families."
"I have heard the countless reactions to my words in the world which have depressed and saddened me," Mr Barilla said.
"It is clear that I have a lot to learn about the lively debate concerning the evolution of the family."
Guido Barilla runs the 140-year-old pasta company with brothers Luca and Paolo.
The company employs 8,000 people and its 30 production sites manufacture 1.7 million tons of products each year.
Last year, American fast food chain Chick-fil-A angered gay rights groups after its president Dan Cathy made remarks opposing same-sex marriage.
Thousands of people pledged to boycott its 1,700 stores, while supporters of Mr Cathy staged a Chick-fil-A "Appreciation Day."