Refreshingly, Vermont takes a commonsensical, live-and-let-live approach to nudity, generally speaking. Nudity is not illegal in the state of Vermont, though municipalities are allowed to set ordinances as they see fit. Simple public nudity does not cross the threshold of what would satisfy the terms for the crime of “lewd and lascivious behavior.” But while appearing nude in public is allowed, lest a local ordinance tells you otherwise, disrobing in public can get you in trouble.
The common sense aspect of this is that going to a traditional spot for skinny dipping or participating in a sanctioned event, such as a nude bike ride, and disrobing there, will likely not get you in trouble. We’ve never had an issue getting undressed at The Ledges in Wilmington, for instance. But walking to downtown Burlington and disrobing there will cause law enforcement to approach you. In an odd quirk of our laws, however, you could emerge from your home in downtown Burlington nude and walk the city streets and you couldn’t be cited. But if you go into a park in Burlington, which is the most logical place for a naturist to wind up nude, you would be subjected to a fine.
Basically, nudity in Vermont comes down to respect. Nudists are given leeway to enjoy nature the best way possible, but we’re expected not to take this for granted. Without ordinances to dispute it, we can be nude on our property, though common sense indicates we might want to be good neighbors; we can be nude on public and private lands where there is a tradition of nude recreation; and we can even be nude in many public places, though this is where we are likely to lose in the court of public opinion and see more ordinances arise.
When teens in Brattleboro tested the limits of public nakedness, the town enacted an ordinance banning nudity from the center of town. When Wilmington banned nudity, essentially taking the very private and out-of-the-way Ledges away from its historical patrons, an outcry from national naturist organizations, civil libertarians, and local activists rallied a vote that overturned this ban.
During some sessions, a couple Vermont legislators do their best to turn simple nudity into a state crime, which would destroy our traditional way of life and a whole lot of common sense. Those laws usually don’t go very far, but we do have to be mindful that they will likely creep up again and again. Currently, our laws only ban lewd and lascivious behavior and the use of nudity in advertising. But we will keep an eye on the legislature and speak up when needed.
Vermont Nudity and Laws in the News
- From 2002: The New Yorker
- From 2002: Naturist Action Committee
- From 2006: NBC News
- From 2015: Seven Days Vermont
- From 2018: Burlington Free Press
- From 2018: Caledonian Record