By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com September 26 2013 11:22 AM ET
Italian pasta-maker Barilla apparently has a distaste for gay families. The company's chairman told Italian radio show La Zanzara Thursday that the world's largest pasta producer will never feature gay couples in its advertisements.
"I would never do [a commercial] with a homosexual couple, not for lack of respect but because we don't agree with them," said Guido Barilla, according to a Reuters translation. "Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role. … If [gays] don't like it, they can go eat another brand."
Just to drive his point home, Barilla added, "I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose," according to a translation from the U.K. Independent. "Everyone has a the right to do what they want without disturbing those around them."
The backlash to Barilla's comments was almost immediate, with LGBT activists in Italy and around the world calling for a boycott of Barilla products. By midday in Italy, the hashtag #boicottbarilla was trending on Twitter, according to Italian news service ANSA. Twitter users were circulating the meme at right.
Even members of Italian Parliament dished on the company's discriminatory stance. "Here we have another example of homophobia, Italian style," said Alessandro Zan, a member of the left-wing Sinistra Ecologia Libertá party, according to ANSA. "I'm boycotting Barilla and I invite other MPs … to do the same. I've already changed pasta brands. Barilla is terrible quality."
More centrist lawmakers also expressed disappointment in the Italian company.
"It's depressing that a businessman used to working and traveling around the the would should say what Guido Barilla had said," Ivan Scalfarotto, a parliamentarian in the center-left Democratic Party, told the Independent. "I certainly won't be buying his products anymore."
After widespread backlash, Guido Barilla made an effort to walk back his antigay comments in a statement published on Barilla's website Thursday evening in Italy. Trying to stress the company's "respect" for LGBT people, he said his comments were only meant to stress the importance of the woman in the family. He also said he "has the utmost respect for gay people," and that he "respect[s] gay marriages."
"I apologize if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding, or if they hurt someone’s sensitivity," reads the statement. "I have the utmost respect for anyone, without distinction of any kind…In its advertising, Barilla represents the family — because it’s what welcomes everyone."