SALT LAKE CITY — TLC has announced it will air a full series about a progressive polygamous family from Utah that starred in a one-hour pilot earlier this year.
The cable TV network said Thursday it will produce nine, one-hour episodes about Brady Williams and his five wives and 24 children. The first episode is set to debut March 9.
The September pilot episode drew good ratings.
Members of the Williams family are among an estimated 15,000 independent polygamists in the West who don’t belong to an organized, fundamentalist Mormon church. Williams and his wives withdrew from the Apostolic United Brethren during the mid-2000s after re-evaluating their core beliefs.
The family no longer teaches the tenets of fundamental Mormonism to their children at home, opting instead to take from other teachings such as Buddhism to instill good, morale values in their two dozen children, who range in age from 2-20.
Their move into the national spotlight comes with much less risk than it would have just a month ago. A federal judge in Utah last week struck down key parts of the state’s polygamy laws, saying a provision that forbids cohabitation violates the First Amendment.
The ruling decriminalizes polygamy, making only bigamy — holding marriage licenses with multiple partners - illegal.
The lawsuit was brought by Kody Brown and his four wives, the stars of TLC’s show “Sister Wives,” and the trailblazers for polygamous families on reality TV. The Browns sued in July 2011 and fled Utah for Las Vegas last year under the threat of prosecution.
Brady Williams told The Associated Press earlier this week that the ruling was a momentous for him and others with multiple wives.
“There is no threat over our heads now,” Williams said. “It’s a first step in the right direction toward the de-marginalization of polygamists.”
In addition to the Browns and now the Williams family, TLC also has done a special featuring the Darger family of Utah. HBO’s fictional show about a polygamous family, “Big Love,” ran for five seasons.
Following the recent court ruling, Williams said now is the time for polygamists to show they are deserving of the recognition by putting an end to the misogyny rampant among the culture and putting women on equal footing as men.
“Women are not a commodity and they shouldn’t be treated as such,” said Williams, 43, a project manager in his brother’s construction business. “There needs to be complete symmetry within a marriage.”
He said that should include strictly prohibiting any man from having child wives. One of the most infamous polygamists, Warren Jeffs, is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting two underage girls he considered his brides. Jeffs still rules a sect of fundamentalist Mormons on the Utah-Arizona border from jail.
“We need to call it for what it is: evil,” Williams said.
The practice of polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church and its 15 million members worldwide abandoned polygamy in 1890 and strictly prohibit it today.