Over the last 20 years, public opinion of gay people and gay families has changed drastically. Many politicians have come out in favor of gay marriage, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was ended, and popular culture has embraced celebrities. Despite this rapid shift in opinion, a few conservative businesses have chosen to take a stand against gay rights. To no one's surprise, this has not proven to be a very successful business strategy.
The latest company to join the ranks of the foolishly principled is Barilla, a family owned pasta company, which today is receiving heavy criticism after the president Guido Barilla made some surprising and inappropriate comments about gay families.
In a radio interview Wednesday, Guido Barilla spoke about his company's values. "For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the basic values of the company." Barilla continued, "We won't include gays in our ads, because we like the traditional family. If gays don't like it, they can always eat another brand of pasta. Everyone is free to do what they want, provided it doesn't bother anyone else."
Predictably, the public has responded to these comments with extreme anger. Many people have taken to Twitter and Facebook to express their outrage. Customers are threatening to follow Barilla's advice and boycott the international pasta company.
Barilla has posted apologies on the company's Italian Twitter and Facebook pages, explaining that Guido has "the utmost respect for gay people and for everyone's right to express themselves." However, the statement has done little to assuage the ever growing voice of outraged customers.
But it is hard to feel sorry for Barilla. Putting aside his totally unnecessary homophobic comments, the company should have predicted this exact response from the public because it has happened so many times before. It has been less than a year since gay rights supporters participated in a massive boycott of the restaurant Chick-fil-A because of the company's affiliation with anti-gay advocacy groups. In 2011 another massive boycott took place at Target because of a political donation to an anti-gay republican PAC.
This pattern has become so consistent that the public has lost its patience with homophobic companies. Customers are not likely to forgive Barilla any time soon, and the upcoming boycott is likely to be indefinite.