By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK, Sept 27 (Reuters) - 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: http://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: http://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," 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.

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: http://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 urged.

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, 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: http://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: http://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 each year.

Last year, fast food chain Chick-fil-A angered gay rights groups after President Dan Cathy made remarks opposing same-sex marriage.

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)

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  • Oreo

    In June 2012, Oreo posted a photo of a rainbow sextuple-stacked cookie to its <a href="https://www.facebook.com/oreo" target="_hplink">Facebook</a> page in honor of Pride month. While the responses were mostly positive, some commenters were outraged, even calling for a <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/oreo-sees-support-backlash-boycott-gay-pride-rainbow-cookie-article-1.1103369" target="_hplink">boycott</a> of the product. Still, Basil Maglaris, Kraft's associate director of corporate affairs, <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-krafts-gay-pride-oreo-draws-20000-comments-some-flak-20120627,0,490983.story" target="_hplink">said</a> that the positive comments on the post "far outweighed" the negative ones.

  • Betty Crocker

    The staple of American domesticity is part of the General Mills family of products, which has been <a href="http://www.dumpgeneralmills.com/?REF=EB120625NANT" target="_hplink">boycotted by the National Organization for Marriage</a> for opposing the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. What better way to celebrate the stand against intolerance than Betty Crocker's <a href="http://www.bettycrocker.com/products/supermoist-cakes/products/supermoist cake mix/rainbow-chip" target="_hplink">Rainbow Chip</a> cake? <em>Correction on July 24 at 1:35pm ET: The original version of this slideshow misidentified the name of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. It has been corrected on this slide and several others throughout the slideshow.</em>

  • Levi's

    In 1992, Levi's found itself at odds with the Boy Scout's 'Three Gs' principle that had guided the Scouts' membership model for more than 80 years -- that everyone is welcome, provided they are not gay, godless, or a girl. San Francisco-based Levi's <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/boy-scouts-battle-on-antigay-policy-levis-the-denim-firm-has-withdrawn-its-sponsorship-over-the-movements-refusal-to-accept-homosexuals-writes-david-usborne-in-washington-1550450.html" target="_hplink">pulled its Boy Scout funding</a>, due to the group's exclusion. In response, Republican Dana Rohrabacher encouraged a 'grassroots' counter-boycott of Levi Strauss and his Texan colleage, Tom DeLay, was even more extreme in his reaction: "When Texans find out that the Levi's they have on go toward attacks on the Boy Scouts of America... they'll take off those Levi's and burn them in the streets."

  • Cheerios

    Not only will this breakfast cereal reduce your family's cholesterol but it will reduce your family's moral integrity as well, according to The National Organization for Marriage. As part of the General Mills family of products, Cheerios is one of the brands that has been <a href="http://www.dumpgeneralmills.com/?REF=EB120625NANT" target="_hplink">boycotted by NOM</a> for opposing the Minnesota Marriage Amendment.

  • American Apparel

    In 2009, <a href="http://www.americanapparel.net/" target="_hplink">American Apparel</a> put its "Legalize Gay" t-shirt in storefront windows in Washinton, D.C. When a group of <a href="http://news.change.org/stories/american-apparel-pushes-back-against-anti-lgbt-vandalism" target="_hplink">anti-LGBT vandals broke the store's windows</a>, the company didn't back down, but rather agreed to send shirts to any group in D.C. that was fighting for gay rights.

  • Disney World

    Although Walt Disney World's <a href="http://www.gaydays.com/" target="_hplink">Gay Days</a> are not officially sanctioned by the theme park, they were the object of a <a href="http://floridafamily.org/full_article.php?article_no=158" target="_hplink">Florida Family Association warning</a>. The anti-LGBT group paid to have two planes fly over the park, with warning banners, to deter unsuspecting families from attending the park during Gay Days.

  • Starbucks

    In January 2012, when Starbucks released a <a href="http://www.dumpstarbucks.com/documents/memo.pdf" target="_hplink">memorandum</a> voicing support of gay marriage, NOM launched <a href="http://www.dumpstarbucks.com/" target="_hplink">DumpStarbucks.com</a> to urge people to boycott the coffee chain.

  • Wheaties

    As part of the General Mills family of products, which has been <a href="http://www.dumpgeneralmills.com/?REF=EB120625NANT" target="_hplink">boycotted by NOM</a> for opposing the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, there are attempts to dethrone Wheaties as the "Breakfast of Champions."

  • Tide Detergent

    In 2004, Procter and Gamble <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2004/09/17/news/fortune500/pg_gay_rights/" target="_hplink">angered conservatives</a> by opposing an anti-gay rights statute that would exempt gays and lesbians from special civil rights protection in its hometown of Cincinnati. In response, the American Family Association <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2004/09/17/news/fortune500/pg_gay_rights/" target="_hplink">issued a boycott</a> of some of P&G's most popular products, including Tide Detergent, and gathered petition signatures from almost 365,000 families urging Procter & Gamble to change its policy.

  • Microsoft

    In 2005, Microsoft <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1490060/Religious-Right-to-boycott-Microsoft-over-support-for-gay-rights.html" target="_hplink">came under fire</a> from anti-LGBT activists, including evangelical preacher Ken Hutcherson, for its support of a bill in that would outlaw discrimination against homosexuals at work in the state of Washington. In response, Microsoft <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1490060/Religious-Right-to-boycott-Microsoft-over-support-for-gay-rights.html" target="_hplink">withdrew its support</a> of the bill, prompting outrage from gay and liberal activists and criticism from its staff and other big businesses. In response, Bill Gates backtracked again and admitted that he was surprised by the vehemence of the reaction. When the bill was defeated by a single vote, Microsoft's liberal critics blamed its withdrawal of support for the loss.

  • Home Depot

    A May 2012 <a href="http://action.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147521725" target="_hplink">post</a> on the American Family Association web site proclaims, "AFA is promoting a boycott of Home Depot until it agrees to remain neutral in the homosexual culture war. The total number of people who have signed the Home Depot boycott pledge is 719,037." The <a href="http://action.afa.net/item.aspx?id=2147496231" target="_hplink">pledge</a> condemns Home Depot for giving "financial and corporate support to open displays of homosexual activism," because this helps expose "small children to lascivious displays of sexual conduct by homosexuals and cross-dressers." In response to the <a href="http://action.afa.net/item.aspx?id=2147496231" target="_hplink">pledge</a>, which was delivered at Home Depot's annual shareholder meeting, Chairman Blake <a href="http://action.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147521725" target="_hplink">responded</a>, "We are, and will remain, committed to a culture that fosters an inclusive environment for our associates, our customers and communities in which we exist."

  • Pampers Diapers

    Diapers are essential to fulfilling the straight family-making dream, which make them an odd target of a 'pro-family' boycott. However, in 2004, Proctor and Gamble <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2004/09/17/news/fortune500/pg_gay_rights/" target="_hplink">angered conservatives</a> by opposing an anti-gay rights statute that would exempt gays and lesbians from special civil rights protection in its hometown of Cincinnati. In response, the American Family Association <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2004/09/17/news/fortune500/pg_gay_rights/" target="_hplink">issued a boycott</a> of some of P&G's most popular products, including Pampers Diapers, and gathered petition signatures from almost 365,000 families, urging Procter & Gamble to change its policy.

  • PepsiCo Products

    After it was discovered that PepsiCo gave a combined $1,000,000 to the <a href="http://www.hrc.org/" target="_hplink">Human Rights Campaign</a> and <a href="http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=191" target="_hplink">PFLAG</a> (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) to promote the so-called "homosexual lifestyle" in the workplace, the American Family Accociation posted a "<a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147483718" target="_hplink">Boycott Pepsi Pledge</a>," urging conservatives to stay away from Pepsi drinks, Frito Lay chips, Quaker Oats, and Gatorade.

  • Safeway

    In June of 2009, Safeway honored Pride by putting large gay/lesbian Pride posters in its stores across America. In response to this celebration of the "gay lifestyle," the American Family Association <a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147484828" target="_hplink">urged conservatives</a> to contact their local Safeway, and ask it to "stop promoting homosexuality," and "let Safeway know if they continue, you will consider grocery shopping with their competitors."

  • Crest Toothpaste

    In 2004, Procter and Gamble <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2004/09/17/news/fortune500/pg_gay_rights/" target="_hplink">angered conservatives</a> by opposing an anti-gay rights statute that would exempt gays and lesbians from special civil rights protection in its hometown of Cincinnati. In response, the American Family Association <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2004/09/17/news/fortune500/pg_gay_rights/" target="_hplink">issued a boycott</a> of some of P&G's most popular products, including Crest Toothpaste, and gathered petition signatures from almost 365,000 families, urging Procter & Gamble to change its policy.

  • Old Navy

    In 2011, when Old Navy planned to sell shirts to benefit the anti-suicide, anti-bullying <a href="http://www.itgetsbetter.org/" target="_hplink">It Gets Better</a> project, the American Family Association <a href="http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/fischer-gays-ought-be-ashamed-national-borders-were-set-god" target="_hplink">urged members</a> to "drop by your Old Navy store in your community and tell them you're not going to shop at Old Navy until they get their minds right."

  • Girl Scouts

    In 2011, when The Girl Scouts decided to allow a transgender youth to participate, The American Family Association <a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147513279" target="_hplink">urged members</a> to contact Girl Scout leadership, "expressing your disappointment in their recent decision to allow boys as troop members," and to "let them know you will not support the Girl Scouts as long as it continues down a path of destructive policies."

  • Macy's

    In December 2011, a Macy's dressing room attendant prevented a transgender woman from using a female dressing room, because it violated her religious beliefs. After the woman was fired for refusing to abide by Macy's pro-LGBT policies, the American Family Association <a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147514523" target="_hplink">lamented</a>, "The LGBT agenda has become the theater of the absurd" and <a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147514523" target="_hplink">urged</a> members to contact the Macy's headquarters to "express... outrage at this injustice to female employees and customers."

  • Target

    In May 2012, Target <a href="http://action.afa.net/uploadedImages/Activism/AFA_Action_Alerts/Action_Alert_Related_Items/targetpride.jpg" target="_hplink">announced</a> that 100% of the purchase price of any of its Pride merchandise would be donated to the pro-LGBT <a href="http://www.familyequality.org/" target="_hplink">Family Equality Council</a>. The American Family Association <a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147521799" target="_hplink">lamented</a> that "Target is joining President Obama in ramming same-sex marriage down the throats of the American people" and urged members to contact Target Chairman Gregg Steinhafel, to "let him know that a majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriage and are able to use their pocketbooks to voice their opposition to companies that support it." It should be noted that Target has also come under fire from gay advocates. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/08/lady-gaga-ends-target-lgbt_n_833209.html" target="_hplink">In 2011, Lady Gaga nixed a deal with Target</a> for an exclusive special edition of her "Born This Way" album after it was revealed that the brand had donated $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that was backing Tom Emmer's gubernatorial bid in Minnesota. Emmer was known for being especially conservative and not supporting equal rights for LGBT citizens.

  • J.C. Penney

    Aside from One Million Mom's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/01/ellen-degeneres-jc-penney_n_1247657.html" target="_hplink">infamous boycott</a> of the department store for choosing Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson, J.C. Penney also came under fire in June 2012 when its <a href="http://calendar.jcpenney.com/june/#!book/thebook/16" target="_hplink">catalog</a> featured two men on the floor playing and hugging their two children at home indicating, <a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147522587" target="_hplink">according</a> to the American Family Association, that the company made a "departure from its moorings to God's Word and Mr. Penney's leadership by taking sides in the cultural war in celebration of homosexuality." The AFA <a href="http://www.afa.net/Detail.aspx?id=2147522587" target="_hplink">urged members</a> to "call or visit your local J. C. Penney store manager to politely inform them that you will not be shopping at their store this Father's Day," and added, "If you have a store credit card or hold stock with the J. C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE: JCP), you might consider closing your account and divesting until they become neutral in the culture war."

  • Pillsbury

    Pillsbury is part of the General Mills family of products, which has been <a href="http://www.dumpgeneralmills.com/?REF=EB120625NANT" target="_hplink">boycotted by NOM</a> for opposing the Minnesota Marriage Amendment.

  • Walgreen's

    In 2006, Walgreen's was a Platinum-Level sponsor of the Chicago "<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_Games" target="_hplink">Gay Games</a>." According to Tom Kovach of <a href="http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/kovach/060319" target="_hplink">RenewAmerica.com</a>, "by its very definition, the 'Gay' Games will invite people from all over the world to come to Chicago this summer and have homo-sex," and Walgreen's support contradicted it "squeaky-clean, family-friendly corporate image." Kovach wasn't alone in his condemnation -- the Illinois Family Institute <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2005-10-19/news/0510190382_1_walgreens-gay-games-vii-michael-polzin" target="_hplink">voiced opposition</a> and considered urging members to boycott the Pharmacy chain.

  • Ford

    In 2005, the American Family Association <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8047423/ns/business-us_business/t/another-swing-pocketbook/#.T-x3GCtSTDV" target="_hplink">launched a boycott campaign</a> against Ford for being "the company which has done the most to affirm and promote the homosexual lifestyle." The group criticized Ford for donating money to gay-rights organizations (Ford offered to give up to $1,000 to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for every Jaguar and Land Rover it sells to a member of GLAAD) and complained that Ford had sponsored Pride celebrations, advertised in gay-oriented publications and was "redefining the definition of the family to include homosexual marriage."

  • Gap

    When Gap launched an ad campaign featuring two men pressed together under a shared t-shirt, anti-LGBT group One Million Moms, which is part of the American Family Association, launched a boycott, <a href="http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/gay-issues/one-million-moms-protests-gap-clothing-gay-billboard" target="_hplink">stating</a>, "GAP Inc. Brands, including Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime, and Athleta, does not deserve, nor will it get, money from conservative families across the country. Supporting GAP is not an option until they decide to remain neutral in the culture war. GAP needs to seriously consider how their immoral advertising affect the youth of our nation."

  • Green Giant

    The frozen vegetable brand is part of the General Mills family of products, which, in June 2012, was <a href="DumpGeneralMills.com " target="_hplink">boycotted by NOM</a> for opposing the Minnesota Marriage Amendment.