This is a real failing of mine. I think I generally use the term "gay" and rarely if ever the word "homosexual" when referring to gay rights issues or gay people or whatever. But that's probably mostly out of convenience - shorter word and all, and maybe sounds a little nicer and more conversational - not because I have thought of the h-word as a slur. But if I was paying attention I would have, and should have, noticed that it is.
CBS just found that if you ask Americans how they feel about "gay men and lesbians" serving in the military, a large majority support it. But if you ask people whether "homosexuals" should be allowed to serve in the military, support drops.Depending on how you ask the question, support jumps by 11-14 percentage points. How strange is that? More than a tenth of this country thinks that "gay men and lesbians" should be allowed to serve in the military, but that "homosexuals" should not.
People simply don't like the word homosexual. And that is why the religious right uses the word every chance it gets.
Any time you hear or read someone using the word homosexual, correct them on the spot. If it's a reporter or a politician or a TV personality, send them an email or a letter. Treat it like it's a slur. Because it is.
Sadly, this is the much-revered middle America, the supposedly independent thinker that politicians are always trying to convince. They don't really think things through or have opinions on important issues beyond the most shallow reaction. They change their minds for no good reason, based on the shiniest words or attitudes they come across. And they essentially run this country, with their whims and uncertainty and unconscious biases the focus of every asshole political consultant.