Alaskan Bush People's Brown family has been through its ups and downs over the years, but many fans are still preoccupied with its strange origin story: Billy and Ami Brown's marriage. The two tied the knot in 1979 when Ami was 15 years old and Bill was 26. Fans are still trying to wrap their heads around not only the 11-year age difference but the fact that she was underage at the time.
Alaskan Bush People premiered in 2019, and in 2015, reporters from Radar Online obtained Ami and Billy's marriage certificate from Tarrant County, Texas in 1979. It showed that Amora Branson Brown was just 15 years old when she tied the knot, while Billy Bryan Brown was 26. For some fans, this put the family's whole story in a new perspective, including Billy's memoir, One Wave at a Time. There, he wrote: "She was the beautiful young woman I had ever met," adding that it was "love at first sight."
Back in 1979, a child could legally get married at as young as 14 years old in the state of Texas, though minors required parental consent for the ceremony. Ami and Billy got permission from Ami's mother, according to a report by Screen Rant, on the condition that Ami still finishes high school.
From the sound of it, she did not hold up her end of that bargain. Shortly after their wedding, Ami cut off all contact with her family and dropped out of school. Furthermore, Ami's mother and brother said that Billy became extremely controlling after that, not allowing her to respond to her family's communications.
Ami would give birth to their first son, Billy, at age 18, and then to have six more children in the years that followed. Ami herself has never spoken out publicly against her husband or the circumstances of their marriage. Still, after the details emerged, some fans speculated that her "quiet, dutiful, subservient" demeanor was "enforced" by Billy in subtle ways.
Alaskan Bush People itself portrays Ami and Billy's marriage as a story of true love, lasting for decades now. It leaned into this angle particularly hard when Ami had lung cancer, forcing the family to leave Alaska for California and seek treatment.
The Browns' marriage circumstances came to light at the same time the family faced legal trouble for allegedly claiming government financial assistance they were not entitled to. This included some family members claiming to be Alaskan citizens while living out of state, for which a Juneau grand jury indicted them. They paid restitution, fines and spent a month on house arrest in a hotel.