Accra, Ghana (CNN)A safe house was the only place Joe felt protected enough to meet. Tucked away in a neighborhood of Accra, off Aflao Road, a group of Ghanaian gay activists use the house to gather in secret and provide shelter to LGBTQ people in need. Sitting on the corner of a couch in the gloomy interior, Joe holds a small clutch in both hands and speaks with a quiet defiance. “I can’t change the way I am. I can’t change who I am,” he says. “This is natural, and it is how I feel. But we are dead. We are all now dead. We can’t go out again and we can’t mingle with our friends again.” It wasn’t supposed to be like this in Ghana. For years, Ghanaian LGBTQ activists felt they had made progress. They witnessed a quiet tolerance, especially in larger cities, and believed that their rights would continue to evolve. But within weeks, Ghana’s parliament is set to debate a draft bill — framed in the guise of “family values” — which seeks to introduce some of the harshest anti-LGBTQ laws on the African continent. The prospect of it passing is pushing the country’s LGBTQ community into the shadows. LGBTQ Ghanaians have been left asking how things got so bad, so quickly, and Western diplomats say they have been caught by surprise. But what one Ghanaian activist calls a “homophobe’s dream bill” has deep roots in Ghana’s religious community. It also found key inspiration from a US ultra-conservative group with Russian ties.