By BRADY McCOMBS
SALT LAKE CITY - The newest Utah polygamous family featured in a reality TV show says sharing their story with a wide audience has been liberating.
Brady Williams and his five wives were a bit apprehensive ahead of the airing of a pilot episode in September, but they recently said in an interview with The Associated Press that it felt liberating to be open about who they are and what they believe.
"It really is like coming out of the closet," said Brady Williams, 43. "It's very liberating."
His wives feel the same way, including his second, Robyn Williams, 40, who said: "I feel more free to just be who I am and not be so afraid."
The show "My Five Wives" airs at 7 p.m. Sundays on TLC. It chronicles the life of Brady Williams, his five wives and their 24 children who live in a small rural community outside of Salt Lake City dominated by a branch of the fundamentalist Mormon church.
The family once belonged to the group, known as the Apostolic United Brethren, but withdrew during the mid-2000s after re-evaluating their core beliefs. Now, they practice polygamy not because they think they must to get to heaven, and avoid hell, but because they prefer the lifestyle.
Their show begins airing in a social and political climate that has softened significantly toward plural families in recent years.
A federal judge in Utah struck down key parts of the state's polygamy laws in December, marking a victory for the Williams and hundreds of other polygamous families in the state. The ruling decriminalizes polygamy, making only bigamy illegal.
The family that brought that lawsuit against the state of Utah, Kody Brown and his four wives from TLC's "Sister Wives," is credited with helping create greater acceptance for plural families.
Their show, which debuted in 2010 with footage of the family at their house in northern Utah, was ground-breaking in demonstrating to viewers across the country that not all polygamists are child predators like Warren Jeffs, the imprisoned leader of a polygamous sect on the Utah-Arizona border.
The Williams family members said they don't expect viewers to be surprised by much, other than maybe how similar they are to non-polygamous families.
It's normal times five, the family jokes. Viewers will see tears, joy and quarrels, they said.
TLC is banking on viewers being fascinated by the unique dynamics of a plural family: regular family sit-down meetings among the adults where Brady Williams follows an agenda written on a notepad; side-by-side multiplexes where they live; and nightly family dinners where the children line up like kids in a school cafeteria to get their food.