‘Sister Wives’ family makes home in inclusive Arizona city

In this 2013 file photo, Kody Brown poses with his wives at one of their homes in Las Vegas, Nev., July 10, 2013 | Photo by Jerry Henkel/Las Vegas Review-Journal via the Associate Press, St. George News

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The patriarch of the polygamous family from TV’s “Sister Wives” drove around his new hometown in northern Arizona, admiring the mountain views but still thinking about the heap of boxes that needed sorting at the homes he rented for his four wives and 18 children.

“We moved to heaven, but we’re in living hell right now,” Kody Brown said, laughing, during a recent phone interview with The Associated Press.

This June 17, 2018, photo shows a photo after the wedding of a daughter from the polygamous family from TV’s “Sister Wives” at La Caille Restaurant in Sandy, Utah. The polygamous family from TV’s “Sister Wives” moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, because they said they needed a new hometown after realizing Las Vegas was a great place to take “exile” but not where they want to grow old | Photo courtesy of Kali Poulsen via The Associated Press, St. George News

Packing up four moving trucks in Las Vegas during triple-digit July heat and taking his family to Flagstaff, a liberal college city in largely conservative Arizona, was no easy task.

But the Browns said they needed a new place to call home — and film their TLC reality show — after realizing they didn’t want to grow old in Las Vegas. They said they lived there in “exile” after fleeing Utah in 2011 under the threat of prosecution following the premiere of their groundbreaking show.

Flagstaff residents have a “live and let live” attitude, and the City Council has passed resolutions promoting diversity and inclusion. The city has snowy winter seasons and is a popular destination for desert dwellers to cool off.

That open-mindedness and beauty attracted the Browns after they ruled out returning to Utah, where they feel discrimination persists against plural families.

“Let’s just say there’s a lot of hippies in Flagstaff, and they’re awesome,” Brown said.

Being married to more than one person, or bigamy, is illegal across the United States. The law in Mormon-heavy Utah is considered stricter because of a unique provision that bars married people from living with a second “spiritual spouse.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned polygamy in 1890 and strictly prohibits it today. The Browns consider themselves fundamentalist Mormons.

In a memo addressing legal questions about the family, Flagstaff police said Brown could not be charged with bigamy because he is legally married to one woman, Robyn Brown. The patriarch says he’s “spiritually married” to the other three women.

The Browns bought four lots totaling almost 15 acres a few miles from downtown Flagstaff for $820,000 in June, according to property records. They said they eventually plan to build a home or homes but are now living in four rentals scattered throughout the community.

Producers told city officials the TV show will do most of the filming at the homes and in a commercial building space the Browns rented. Season eight of “Sister Wives” is set to debut on TLC in January 2019.

Flagstaff has been abuzz about the move, with residents sharing sightings of the family on social media.

Pete Page lives across the street from the Browns in a quiet neighborhood where homes are spread out amid a meadow and surrounded by ponderosa pine trees. He doesn’t object to the family’s lifestyle but doesn’t want to see environmental damage, streets blocked off for filming, more traffic and noise, or fans driving around trying to get a glimpse.

Everyone has the same concern: ‘Is this going to turn into a circus?’” fellow neighbor Michael Reidy said. “Most of us don’t think it will, but that will be the fear.”

Jessie Luckey, who lives in east Flagstaff with her husband and two children, said she enjoyed watching “Sister Wives” and would be courteous to the family, but views their lifestyle as patriarchal and sexist.

“This is not a culture I want here,” she said, “normalizing a behavior that I don’t think should be normalized.”

The Browns initially imagined returning to Utah despite suing over its unique cohabitation law, alleging it violated their religious freedom. They scored an early legal victory, but an appeals court ruled they couldn’t sue because they had not been charged under the law.

“Utah is hostile toward polygamists,” Kody Brown said. “There is a very natural and subtle discrimination from the public because of those anti-polygamy laws.”

The family doesn’t regret its time in Nevada, where the kids blossomed because they could be normal and not singled out as polygamous kids like in Utah, the wives said. They now range in age from 2 to 24.

Three of the Browns’ children are married, and two others are in serious relationships — including one daughter who is a lesbian. None plans to practice polygamy.

“I am very comfortable with their choices regardless of what they are,” Brown said.

Update Aug. 26, 1:30 p.m. This report was updated with additional details and quotes.

Written by BRADY McCOMBS and FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Carpe Diem August 25, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    LEA are prosecution the Kingston polygamists… for thieving some 500 million from the IRS! I think a couple are being held still in jail pending trials. They also raided their pawn shops. On top of that the FLDS keep getting themselves in ugly messes.
    So, no, it doesnt look like it’s a plyg friendly State any longer. Flag is good though, no one will know ya. Maybe. What’s wrong with Vegas BTW? Summer’s over.

    • Happy Commenter August 25, 2018 at 5:05 pm

      Are you trying to make a point or just show us the top of your head?

  • mesaman August 25, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Actually he is exercising his first amendment rights. You have a problem with that?

    • Happy Commenter August 25, 2018 at 9:03 pm

      But why didn’t he make any sense? Drugs maybe?

  • Henry August 26, 2018 at 3:44 am

    Polygamists have lived in UT for many years without experiencing the persecution they wear on their sleeve. It would appear that the only thing they have to gain would be attention. When will their 15 minutes be up ?hopefully soon. Their brand of manufactured drama will come to a (merciful) end and another horrible pretend reality show will take its place.

  • Mike P August 26, 2018 at 10:50 am

    My wife loved watching this “Train wreak” as she called it. So, basically, I sometimes watched it over her shoulder as I read. My take is they’ve moved because they’ve milked Vegas out of everything they could get out of it . So it was time to move on and start doing it again, elsewhere.

    • Redbud August 28, 2018 at 7:31 pm

      I agree. They have to do something to stir up controversy and cause more drama. A move to Arizona fits the bill, so now they will feature an episode where it takes them an hour to capture all the drama when they gather their family around to announce they’re moving. Oh the horror!

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