Voeller graduated with a bachelor's degree from Reed College in 1956. He was awarded a five year fellowship to the Rockefeller Institute, and earned a Ph.D. in biology in 1961. He became an associate professor at the Institute in 1966. He wrote four books while there, as well as editing others' work, and writing numerous papers and articles. He married Kytja Scott Voeller, whom he met at graduate school, and they had three children.
He came out at the age of 29, and divorced from his wife in 1971. After becoming president of the New York Gay Activists Alliance, he decided it was not wide enough in its coverage. Therefore, with some friends, he founded the National Gay Task Force in October 1973, and was its director until 1978. The Task Force established affiliations with more than 2000 gay groups, and by 1978 had over 10,000 members. In 1977, the National Gay Task Force (now the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) successfully initiated the first-ever meeting between the White House and more than a dozen gay and lesbian leaders. President Jimmy Carter’s assistant, Midge Costanza, met with Task Force co-chairs and board members as well as representatives of gay and lesbian organizations for a briefing on critical policy issues affecting this constituency. The meeting marked the first time openly gay and lesbian leaders were welcomed at the White House and the first official discussion of gay and lesbian rights in the White House. Attendees at the White House meeting included: Frank Kameny, Myra Keddell, Charles Brydon, Ray Hartman, Betty Powell, William Kelley, Troy Perry, Jean O'Leary, Elaine Noble, George Raya and Pokey Anderson. He also founded the Mariposa Foundation, which specializes in sex research, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Before the 1980s, AIDS was known by various names, including GRIDD (Gay Related Immune Defense Disorder). Because this term was inaccurate, Voeller coined the term acquired immune deficiency syndrome. His partner was Richard Lucik, who was also his associate at Mariposa. Voeller died in 1994 of an AIDS related illness in California, at the age of 59.
- Saxon, Wolfgang (1994-02-24). "Dr. Bruce Voeller Is Dead at 59; Helped Lead Fight Against AIDS". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- Stewart, Chuck (2003). Gay and Lesbian Issues. ABC-CLIO. pp. 168–9. ISBN 1-85109-372-9.
- "Today marks 30th anniversary of first-ever meeting between White House and gay leaders" (Press release). TaskForce. 2007-03-26. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
- "Bruce Voeller". bnl.gov. Retrieved 2008-10-09.