New research being released Wednesday shows steadily increasing recognition of unmarried couples — gay and straight — as families. But there’s a solid core resisting this trend who are more willing to include pets in their definition than same-sex partners. How “family” is defined is a crucial question on many levels. Beyond the debate over same-sex marriage, it affects income tax filings, adoption and foster care practices, employee benefits, inheritance rights and countless other matters. The new research on the topic is contained in a book-length study, “Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definition of Family” and in a separate 2010 survey overseen by the book’s lead author, Indiana University sociologist Brian Powell.

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