Gay and lesbian groups are calling for consumer boycott of Barilla Group, world's leading pasta manufacturer, even after its chairman offered an apology for his remarks on Italian radio that they believe in traditional family and would never use a gay family in advertising.
The Italian pasta firm's website carries an apology by its chairman Guido Barilla. "To all those who have been offended, including the thousands of employees and partners who work with Barilla around the world, I apologize for and regret my insensitive comments," says Barilla. "I understand that they were hurtful and they are not a genuine view of my opinion."
On Wednesday, the 55-year-old chairman said in an interview with Radio 24, "I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don't agree with them," according to Reuters. "Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role."
Barilla said this after being directly asked whether he would ever feature a gay family in his company's commercials. He was also asked how gays were expected to respond to his remarks. "Well, if they like our pasta and our message they will eat it; if they don't like it and they don't like what we say they will … eat another," he said.
Barilla also said he opposed adoption by gay parents. However, he added he was in favour of same-sex marriage. Italy, where the Roman Catholic Church has influence over politics, does not recognize gay marriage or civil unions.
Aurelio Mancuso, chairman of gay rights group Equality Italia, accused Barilla of being offensive and provocative. "Accepting the invitation of Barilla's owner to not eat his pasta, we are launching a boycott campaign against all his products," Mancuso said.
Alessandro Zen, a lawmaker from the opposition Left Ecology Freedom party, responded by saying, "Here is another example of Italian homophobia. I am taking part in the [Barilla] boycott and invite other MPs – at least those who are not resigning – to do the same."
Soon after Barilla's remarks, the hashtag "boicotta-barilla" went viral on Twitter.
Barilla also apologized on Twitter. "I apologize very much for having offended the sensibilities of many. I have the deepest respect for all the people without distinction."
"I have the utmost respect for anyone, without distinction of any kind... I have the utmost respect for gay people and for everyone's right to express themselves... I have the utmost respect for all loving marriages and families," Barilla said in his apology on the website.
"At Barilla, we consider it our mission to treat our consumers and partners as our neighbors – with love and respect – and to deliver the very best products possible," he added.