A federal appeals court has ruled a provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex couples, is unconstitutional. The ruling came in the case of prominent lesbian activist Edith Windsor of New York, who was forced to pay more than $350,000 in estate taxes because her marriage to Thea Spyer was not recognized under federal law. Spyer died in 2009. The two married in Canada in 2007 after 41 years as a couple. On Wednesday, the court ruled a statute defining marriage as an act between a man and a woman discriminates against gay couples by denying them federal benefits. It was the fourth time a federal court has ruled the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.