Reality shows like TLC's Sister Wives and My Five Wives shine a spotlight onto a lifestyle that most people watching probably aren't familiar with: polygamy. Like Kody Brown and his four wives, Brady Williams of My Five Wives practices polygamy, though his family has left their church and consider themselves "progressive polygamists." Still, it is illegal in all 50 states for anyone to have multiple spouses at the same time, so how can the Williams be on TV? The family at the center of My Five Wives is not breaking any laws.
It's strange, since it seems like the show's very title is an admittance of polygamy, but thanks to that other TLC polygamist family, the Williams can't get in trouble. Even though Brady refers to Paulie, Robyn, Rosemary, Nonie and Rhonda as his wives, he is only legally married to his first wife, Paulie. That means he isn't breaking any bigamy laws that forbid someone from getting married when they are already married to someone else. Legally, Brady is only married to Paulie.
However, the Williams family was breaking a different law up until December 2013. In addition to the basic marriage rule, Utah's polygamy law also made it illegal for someone to live with one person while married to another. By living on a rotating schedule with all five of his wives, some of whom share a physical home, Brady was breaking this law. So was Kody, which is what caused him and the rest of the Browns to move from Utah to Nevada in 2011. Since appearing on national television with Sister Wives made it clear to authorities that the Browns were breaking the cohabitation law, the police began investigating them and the Browns left the state to avoid prosecution.
Once their family was safe, they got to work fighting that same law. Kody filed a complaint protesting the law in July of 2011 and on December 13, 2013, a judge ruled in the Brown's favor. Utah's cohabitation law was deemed unconstitutional on the bases of religious freedom and due process, meaning the Williams are no longer breaking any laws with their lifestyle.
My Five Wives actually showed the family receiving the news. Brady got a text message confirming the ruling and gathered all five wives to announce that the Browns had won. A few of them became emotional as they shared the sense of relief they felt since they could no longer be prosecuted.
Starting a reality series before the law was repealed was a very risky move for the Williams family, but the polygamist reality family that came before them stopped any issues before they could start. So if TLC wants to add more shows about polygamy to their lineup, they don't have to worry about indirectly starting any legal battles. Well, any more legal battles.