You might say the battle that began with the Stonewall riots of 1969 has now reached all the way to the pasta aisle of your local supermarket. And it's become overwhelmingly clear that the LGBT community is winning in the marketplace.
Anti-gay comments last week by Barilla pasta's clueless president, Guido Barilla, ignited a global reaction. A Change.org petition to boycott the company's products here in the U.S., started by an Italian-American mother from Connecticut who wants the world to know how proud she is of her gay son, has picked up more than 8,000 signatures.
Barilla and his company quickly and repeatedly offered apologies, but that may not stem the bleeding from the world's largest pasta-maker's self-inflicted image wounds.
What the controversy and Barilla's swift apologies have accomplished is to demonstrate how much U.S. culture has changed when comes to attitudes toward the LGBT community.
The fuse for this ongoing media firestorm was lit last week when Barilla did an interview with an Italian radio station.
"We won't include gays in our ads, because we like the traditional family," he intoned in the interview. "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."
Barilla added to his problems later by saying, "I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose." His later efforts to apologize didn't seem to help much.
"Mr. Barilla and other leaders like him should realize how hurtful it is to speak out against gay people," says Linda Ferraro, who was born in Brooklyn, NY, and now lives in Shelton. "I cannot support a brand that doesn't support all of my children so I've switched brands. A lot of my friends and family have said they have done the same thing."
Ferraro's petition and the storm of criticism on Facebook and Twitter weren't the only indications that Barilla had made a serious error.
Barilla's competitors in the pasta world gleefully launched ads promoting the fact that they're more than happy to sell their products to everyone — not just heterosexuals.
Buitoni's commercial features the slogan "Pasta for all" and shows pasta couples with gender symbols in all possible combinations. Bertolli's ad had a variety of same-shaped pasta pairs dancing down a spoon into a bowl of sauce. San Remo's message was, "We're all family here."
Barilla's family started its pasta company more than 130 years ago. The U.S. is its second-largest market and the Chicago Tribune reported that the company has been focusing on improving sales here. Other news organizations noted that Barilla's profits dropped by 21 percent last year.
Italy has no marriage equality laws, and LGBT activists in that nation complain about "legitimized public homophobia" within their culture.
In addition to the various apologies to the LGBT community, Barilla agreed to meet with gay activists to discuss issues of equality and protections for gay and lesbian employees.
Barilla sought to contain the damage, trying to explain that he "only wanted to underline the central role of the woman in the family."
It didn't help much. And one of the earliest responses came from the Ferraro family.
Richard Ferraro is chief spokesperson for the LGBT advocacy group, GLAAD.
"After his comments, I called my mom [Linda Ferraro] as I do every day," Richard Ferraro recalls. "My mom was so frustrated and she asked what she could do."
What she could do was that Change.org petition calling for a boycott of Barilla's pasta. (Other online Barilla boycott petitions were gathering signatures just as fast or faster.)
"My grandparents moved to Brooklyn, NY from Italy and taught me that family is more important than anything," Linda Ferraro wrote on her petition page. "I remembered that tradition when my son Rich was a teenager and cried at our dinner table as he told me he was gay… I have a newsflash for Guido Barilla: I am proud of my gay son and we are a traditional family."