The Note's Must-Reads for Friday, February 14, 2014

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at
Compiled by ABC News' Will Cantine and Jordan Mazza

NATIONAL SECURITY ABC News' Luis Martinez: " Afghanistan Releases 65 Detainees Despite US Objections" In another low point in Afghanistan's relationship with the United States, Afghanistan has released 65 detainees that the U.S. military says are among the most dangerous men in the country. Afghanistan went through with the release over the objections of U.S. and NATO officials who say the men were directly implicated in deadly attacks that killed or wounded 32 American and coalition service members. In the months leading up to today's release, U.S. officials have launched a public campaign urging Afghanistan not to release the detainees, who are among the final 88 detainees once under U.S. control. They have said there is enough evidence for Afghan officials to proceed with their prosecution instead of their release. LINK

The New York Times' Jawad Sukhanyar and Rod Nordland: " In Prison Release, Signs Of Karzai's Rift With U.S." On Thursday at 9:10 a.m., the gates of the Bagram Prison swung open, and 65 men with long beards and new clothes walked out to freedom. The moment showed clearly just how thoroughly President Hamid Karzai had broken with the American military, here now 12 years. American officials had lobbied intensely with the Afghan government, first in private and then in increasingly acrimonious terms in public, to prevent the release of men they believed were not only dangerous insurgents with American and Afghan blood on their hands, but also men who would be convicted of that in an Afghan court of law. LINK

SAME SEX MARRIAGE The Washington Post's Robert Barnes: " Federal Judge Strikes Down Va. Ban On Gay Marriage" A federal judge in Norfolk struck down as unconstitutional Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage Thursday night, saying the country has "arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect." U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen issued a sweeping 41-page opinion that mentioned at length Virginia's past in denying interracial marriage and quoted Abraham Lincoln. She struck the constitutional amendment Virginia voters approved in 2006 that both bans same-sex marriage and forbids recognition of such unions performed elsewhere. LINK

The Washington Times' Matthew Cella and Andrea Noble: " Federal Judge Strikes Down Virginia's Constitutional Ban On Same-Sex Marriage" A federal judge Thursday night issued a landmark ruling striking down Virginia's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and moving the Old Dominion a step closer to being the first state in the traditional South where such unions are legal. The 41-page opinion by U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that the constitutional amendment and "any other Virginia law that bars same-sex marriage or prohibits Virginia's recognition of lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions unconstitutional." LINK

Politico's Josh Gerstein: " Federal Judge Strikes Down Virginia Same-Sex Marriage Ban" A federal judge ruled Thursday that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. "Tradition is revered in the Commonwealth, and often rightly so. However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia's ban on interracial marriage," Judge Arenda Wright Allen wrote in a 41-page opinion Ruling on a lawsuit brought by a gay couple who lives in Norfolk, Allen said the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage could not be justified even under the most lax constitutional test for state actions: whether it had a "rational" connection to a legitimate state purpose. Her ruling will not immediately make marriage licenses available to same-sex couples in Virginia because she ordered that her decision be stayed pending an expected appeal. LINK

USA Today's Richard Wolf: " Virginia Judge Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban" A federal judge in Virginia has struck down the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage, joining a growing list of state and federal courts that have granted gay and lesbian couples the right to marry following two landmark Supreme Court rulings in June. U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen's ruling had been expected since the case was heard in her Norfolk courtroom last week. Also as expected, she blocked it from taking immediate effect until appeals are heard. As a result, gay marriages in Virginia cannot begin yet. LINK

HEALTHCARE Bloomberg's Alison Vekshin: " Lag In Enrolling Latinos In Obamacare Spurs New California Push" Lagging enrollment in Obamacare among California's Latinos is spurring a new push into communities to sell the state's program face-to-face. Many low-wage Latinos fear that going on public assistance could harm their efforts to become U.S. citizens, or enrolling could lead to the deportation of undocumented relatives who live with them, according to community activists. At the same time, glitches on the insurance exchange website and a lack of Spanish-speaking counselors on its telephone banks aren't helping, they say. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Louise Radnofsky: " Health-Law backers Push Skimpier 'Copper' Insurance Policies" Some backers of the 2010 health-care law are pushing to create a new kind of insurance coverage that the measure essentially had ruled out: policies offering lower premiums but significantly higher out-of-pocket costs than those now available. The plans, dubbed "copper" because they would offer a lower level of coverage than the "gold," "silver" and "bronze" options on the government-run health-care exchanges, would be a departure from the minimum level of coverage that is one of the Affordable Care Act's core principles. Many plans that offered less coverage were canceled when the health-care law was rolled out because they didn't meet its new requirements. Republicans accused President Barack Obama of backtracking on his promise that the law would allow people to keep their preferred health plans. In the face of an uproar, the Obama administration asked insurers to reinstate some of the millions of canceled policies for one year. LINK

MINIMUM WAGE The Los Angeles Times' Michael A. Memoli: "House Democrats Will Seek To Force Vote On Minimum Wage" Democrats will seek to force a House vote on raising the federal minimum wage, party leaders said Thursday, but even getting the proposal to a vote will be an uphill fight. As the minority party in the House, Democrats cannot set the agenda for when bills are brought to the floor. So they will use a procedural tool known as a discharge petition to bring up their proposal to raise the minimum hourly pay to $10.10. LINK

The Hill's Mike Lills: " House Dems Seek To Force GOP's Hand On Minimum Wage Hike" House Democrats are launching an effort to force Republicans' hand on the minimum wage. The Democrats will introduce a discharge petition later this month designed to force a floor vote on a proposal to hike the minimum wage, even in the face of entrenched opposition from GOP leaders. The discharge petition faces a high bar, as it would require at least 18 Republicans to buck their leadership and endorse the measure - a scenario the Democrats readily acknowledge is unlikely. "I don't think we're ever confident that we're going to get 18 Republicans to sign a discharge petition," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) conceded during the Democrats' annual issues retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore. LINK

THE WHITE HOUSE AND NETFLIX ABC News' Erin Dooley: " Washington, DC Is Officially Obsessed With 'House Of Cards'" Plagued by drug, sex and snooping scandals, Washington really should be so over political intrigue. But D.C. apparently hasn't had its fill of illicit activity. The capitol city is officially obsessed with Netflix drama "House of Cards" - and its deliciously cold-blooded protagonist, Frank Underwood. In fact, in advance of Friday's release of the second season of the series, several congressional super-fans took to the small screen to recreate iconic moments from the show in a video released by social media startup NowThis News. LINK

The New York Daily News' Jeanette Settembre: " What President Obama's Netflix Queue - With 'Game Of Thrones' And 'House Of Cards' - Says About The Leader Of The Free World" President Obama will take Louisiana detectives, a scheming dwarf and sleazy congressmen on his upcoming three-day President's Day getaway, but he's vetoing Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and the rest of the Kardashians. And TV experts aren't surprised by the choices made by America's Netflixer in Chief. "The TV apple doesn't fall too far from the tree," says Marc Berman, editor in chief of TV Media Insights as he reviewed a presidential agenda that includes "True Detective," "Game of Thrones" and "House of Cards." LINK

GOP The Boston Globe's Noah Bierman: " GOP Adds For-Profit Muscle To The Fray" In a sterile office building a few miles from the White House, Mitt Romney's old campaign manager has a new mission: foiling Democratic candidates across the country. Republicans say that Matt Rhoades's fledgling political group, America Rising, is attempting to build the party's most sophisticated, modern, and centralized opposition research effort ever. It is key to the GOP's hopes of resurrecting itself after the soul-crushing presidential defeat of 2012. But what's most notable about American Rising is this: It is the first high-profile political combat organization to rely heavily on a for-profit company, rather than operating as a nonprofit group, exploiting increasingly lax campaign finance laws to maximum advantage. LINK

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