By Kay Henderson
DES MOINES (Reuters) - A former Alabama judge who gained attention for defying orders to take down a "Ten Commandments" monument from his courthouse said on Monday he was seriously considering running for president.
Roy Moore, a Republican who was removed from Alabama's Supreme Court by a judicial ethics panel, said he was ready to join the 2012 race.
"I've been asked by many people, for years, about running for president and I have not done so. I think that it's time to explore that possibility," he said in an interview.
Moore, who lost two bids for governor of Alabama in 2006 and 2010, could join what could be a wide-open race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Among several potential Republican candidates, three have taken the formal step to set up exploratory committees: former governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
Democratic President Barack Obama recently announced he would seek a second term.
Moore, 64, is in the midst of a six-day tour of Iowa, which holds state-wide caucuses that kick off the presidential nominating process.
He has visited Iowa four times since last summer, when he campaigned to oust three justices from the Iowa Supreme Court that issued a ruling allowing gay marriage in the state.
Moore considers Iowans who voted those justices off the bench to be a potential base of support.
"This is a natural group of people who want to stand for family values, want to stand for something that's so common sense it defies imagination: marriage between one man and one woman," Moore said.
Moore, a graduate of West Point who served in Vietnam, opposes the Obama administration's decision to undo the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and allow openly gay and lesbian soldiers to serve in the military.
"I've served throughout the continental United States, Europe, Southeast Asia. I know that homosexuality is not conducive to the military mission and I have no qualms about that," Moore said.
Former Iowa lawmaker Danny Carroll, who worked for 2008 Republican Iowa caucus winner Mike Huckabee, said he will back Moore this time, admiring his courage in standing up to authorities demanding he remove the 10 Commandments monument.
Moore said the ethics panel that removed him was "ignorant" of his constitutional right to "acknowledge God."
(Editing by Andrew Stern and Greg McCune)