| NEW YORK, Sept 27
NEW YORK, Sept 27 U.S. and international gay
rights supporters called on Friday for a boycott of Italian
pasta maker Barilla, whose chairman said he would never feature
a gay family in its 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. (Petition: r.reuters.com/naz43v)
A MoveOn.org petition started by Beth Allen, a Takoma Park,
Maryland, mother of two and a lesbian, garnered 85,000
signatures by Friday evening. (Petition: r.reuters.com/paz43v)
"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," 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,"
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.
Barilla also said he was unconcerned with whether gay
consumers would stop buying pasta from the privately held
company that is the world's biggest pasta maker.
If gays "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 U.S.-based Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or
GLAAD, rallied behind the petition of an Italian-American mother
in Connecticut who has a gay son. (Petition: r.reuters.com/qaz43v)
Consumers can 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, the group
Nobel laureate Fo urged Barilla to make up for the remarks
by creating an advertisement that featured a same-sex couple or
The Washington, D.C.-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. (Barilla alternatives: r.reuters.com/saz43v)
"Now, more than ever, consumers are sending a message that
they are watching to see if the business they patronize
understand and honor issues important to them," it said.
Shoppers in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, an area
popular with the gay community, said Barilla's comments could
weigh into their decision to buy the brand.
"Making a comment is one thing," said Melissa Beyer, 40. "To
me, the thing that takes it one step further is whether or not a
company gives money to support some policy I don't agree with."
Christopher Houlihan, 26, a concert organist, said he saw
the comments as a questionable business move.
"He can have an opinion, but he should keep it to himself,"
Houlihan said. "It's not just gay people that aren't going to
buy it. It's friends and family members."
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."
(Barilla video: r.reuters.com/raz43v)
"I have heard the countless reactions to my words in the
world which have depressed and saddened me. It is clear that I
have a lot to learn about the lively debate concerning the
evolution of the family," he said.
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
Last year, fast food chain Chick-fil-A angered gay rights
groups after President Dan Cathy made remarks opposing same-sex
Thousands of people pledged to boycott its 1,700 stores,
while Cathy supporters staged a Chick-fil-A "Appreciation Day."
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)