|Source: Flickr (Creative Commons)|
Whether it's true or not, it's very easy to deflect, with the classic response, "Hey, I don't fear people, so I can't be a homophobe." While this seems like a highly suspect claim from someone claiming that a homosexual lifestyle is an abomination that will send them to hell, since we don't know whether or not they're experiencing fear, we can never really know if the homophobe label is or is not accurate in that particular case.
For that reason, I've begun to find the term "heterosexist" a lot more appropriate.
A heterosexist is someone who believes that heterosexual/opposite-sex relationships are inherently superior and/or more deserving of legal recognition/protection than homosexual/same-sex relationships.
Heterosexism is a clearer description of the ideology that these people hold (whether or not they are actually homophobic on top of this). And, if this label is applied to someone, they really can't deny it ... unless, of course, they aren't heterosexist. Denying one's heterosexism requires saying, "No, I don't believe that heterosexual relationships are superior to homosexual ones" ... at which point, the heterosexist argument falls apart.
So I suggest that people begin using the term heterosexist instead of homophobe. If the debate over whether a "civil union" is equivalent to a "marriage" has taught us anything, it's that words have a very real meaning, and calling something by its true name is a worthy endeavor.