Dr. Carson, with all due respect, that’s exactly what it means.
It’s no different than saying “Just because I believe black people should have separate schools doesn’t mean I’m racist,” or “Just because I think women shouldn’t be able to vote doesn’t mean I’m sexist.” Schools and government are both systems, created by humans, for our benefit. Denying someone the right to participate in those system is saying that person does not deserve the same benefits because they are not equal. Marriage is also a system, created by humans, to benefit us in legal and social ways. Every single human has the right to those benefits.
When this came up with my students today, one of them said, “But Mrs. Starr, homophobic means scared. He’s not scared of gay people. That’s all he was saying.”
Oh my darling, have we taught you nothing in 12 years of English classes? Words mean so much more than just the dictionary definitions. The connotation of homophobe is having the feeling that people who are gay are different and lesser than, not a fear, like the fear of a snake or a spider.
Though I suggest, if you really want to play that game, that you ARE scared. If you, a heterosexual man, were in a locker room naked, next to a naked gay man, how would you feel? Uncomfortable you say? Well, that discomfort is your fear shining through loud and clear. You are scared that gay person might look at you or touch you or desire you. Just like you are scared the snake might bite you or the spider might crawl on you.
A homophobe might say he likes gay people, he even has friends who are gay, and he’s not scared of them, so he’s not homophobic. But if this person believes someone who is gay is different from him, less human, less natural, less “God-like,” and therefore undeserving of the rights due to all humans, that person is a homophobe. If someone seeks to use political, legal, social, educational, or any kind of power to deny a human being who is gay the rights that person claims for himself, that person is a homophobe.
One of the very best things about America is that we are each free to believe whatever we want. If you believe a man who loves another man or a woman who loves another woman is a lesser human being than you are, well, you have a right to that opinion and I, like Voltaire, will fight to the death for your right to say it. But I respectfully disagree with you. And I don’t like it when you claim that belief, but deny you are the thing that belief conveys. If you are homophobic, just own it and we can all get on with our day.