life:

Richard and Mildred Loving never asked to be heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. But when the state of Virginia had their interracial marriage in its crosshairs, the unassuming, intensely private couple fought back. And on June 12, 1967, they won.

Here, on the 45th anniversary of the June 12, 1967, Supreme Court decision that, in effect, codified the right of men and women to simply love whom they choose, LIFE.com presents a gallery of recently rediscovered Grey Villet photographs of the Lovings, their family and their friends, along with the text of the original magazine story.

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