A Canadian coffee shop chain has been forced to pull out of a sponsorship deal with an anti-gay marriage organisation after an online outcry.

Tim Hortons, which sells coffee and doughnuts, offered to provide 250 cups of coffee for the Rhode Island Marriage and Family Day, hosted by the National Organisation for Marriage (NOM) on August 16th.

NOM, a religious organisation, is a vociferous campaigner against gay marriage. Earlier this year, it released a video claiming that a “storm is gathering” over equal rights.

The Tim Hortons logo appeared on the event’s brochure, next to the words: “To take a stand for marriage as it was created to be.”

After a blaze of online negative publicity which led to two thousand people signing a petition to protest over the sponsorship, the coffee chain last night distanced itself from the event and apologised for any “misunderstanding” and “inconvenience” caused.

It added that it would no longer be a sponsor due a policy stating it will not sponsor events “representing religious groups, political affiliates or lobby groups”.

Chris Plante, executive director of NOM’s Rhode Island chapter, said the chain had been “bullied by a vocal minority” and claimed the event was open to all, including gay couples.